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Solebury denies (for now) request for greater public library funding


The Solebury supervisors on Nov. 7 voted to schedule a final vote to adopt its 2020 budget on Dec. 10. The budget calls for no municipal tax increase.

However, before the vote to advertise that date, a surprise amendment was suggested by Supervisor Robert McEwan, liaison to the Free Library of New Hope and Solebury.

He wanted to add $50,000 to the township’s $120,000 library contribution, which had no increase budgeted for next year.

McEwan cited a long list of budget items that could be reduced to create the $50,000 so that no tax increase would be necessary.

The vote on McEwan’s amendment was defeated 3-2 with supervisors Chair Mark Baum Baicker, Noel Barrett and Kevin Morrissey voting no and McEwan and John Francis voting yes.

The board then voted unanimously to schedule the final vote on the proposed budget on Dec. 10.

About a dozen library supporters attended the meeting, including former supervisor Helen Tai.

“I know how challenging it is to balance the budget,” Tai said. “The library is a critical element of living in the community. I would be ashamed of living in a community that didn’t adequately fund its library.”

Francis, defending the defeated proposal, said, “We’re not asking for more money, just reserving the money – putting it in the general fund reserve. No one is talking about a tax increase.”

On the other side, Morrissey said, “I am not against additional significant increase in funding for the library. ... However I believe the larger principle is that the township government should represent the entire community. Consequently the township needs to ... do the appropriate level of due diligence to analyze consequences of increasing library funding. In addition, it is critical we have discussions with the community to understand their preferences. ... We were elected to represent the entire community.

“I hope that we are able to have at least one meeting with a significant representation from the community early next year to have a better understanding of the community view of the library. In the meantime, there are efforts to review data relative to the library to have a better understanding of its operations and the potential for future contribution to the community.”

Chair Baum Baicker agreed and said a date would be set early next year to get the community’s input. Supervisor Barrett said he also needed more information and favored a community meeting.

Baum Baicker noted that the proposed budget keeps the real estate tax millage at 23.81and includes:

– The refinancing and refunding of $6.1 million in existing debt and new land preservation money of $1.3 million in 2019; and new borrowing of $5 million in 2020;

– Paving in Laurel Park, recycling events, a sound system for the meeting room, and a groundwater study.

In other matters, Baum Baicker thanked township voters for approving the $12 million open space referendum on Nov. 5. The vote was 2,139 (74.9 percent) yes to 716 (25.1 percent) no.

The supervisors also gave final acquisition approval of a conservation easement for 59.76 acres on River Road owned by John and Susan Eichert. The easement price is $1.5 million.

The board agreed to start easement acquisition negotiations for 67.36 acres with another landowner on Sawmill Road.

Polly Wood, secretary of the New Hope-Solebury library, reported the library made about $20,000 from its Oct. 4 Community Spelling Bee held at New Hope-Solebury High School. This topped last year’s total of about $16,000, she said.