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Library solvent, future in doubt

The embattled public library once again took center stage at the Hellertown borough council meeting Nov. 7.

At its prior meeting Oct. 17, Council President Thomas Rieger informed council of a meeting borough representatives had with Lower Saucon Township officials to discuss the formal termination of the partnership between the municipalities.

Instead, Rieger said that borough administrators emerged from the summit with renewed hope that the Hellertown Area Library in particular might still be the beneficiary of a compromise between the two municipalities.

In lieu of a deal for a steady fiscal future, Pennsylvania’s Office of Commonwealth Libraries has formally approved the HAL’s cessation of library services to Lower Saucon Township residents as of Jan 1, 2023, which resident Jayne Shinko said is now common knowledge.

Shinko said the library’s annual budget is approximately $240,000, and, “of that, approximately $130,000 is attributed to LST residents.”

Without that revenue, the library operates at a deficit, and its reserve funds are limited to an investment account of $300,000, Shinko said, adding: “In approximately two [to] two-and-a-half years, they’re going to be closing their doors unless other streams of income are found.”

Shinko asked councilor Matt Marcincin, who acts as the borough’s liaison to the library’s Board of Trustees, to address in his scheduled report whether cost increases and/or potential cuts are in discussion.

During the scheduled report later in the meeting, Marcincin said that while everything [Shinko] said is true, the situation remains fluid. He added that both Hellertown and Lower Saucon residents have “stepped up and presented a lot of money to the library,” and alternative sources of funding such as corporate sponsorships have been discussed.

“I am concerned – and it’s dire – but I don’t think it’s desperate, and certainly don’t think demise is in the cards,” Marcincin added.

In other business, Borough Manager Cathy Hartranft also presented theborough’s 2023 preliminary general, sanitation, fire, highway aid and capital budgets.

The borough’s total valuation was slightly under $132 million, Hartranft said. With projected revenue expected to decline by two and a half percent, approximately $116,000 will be used of the borough’s remaining American Rescue Plan funds, she said.

Moreover, to maintain millage rates and avoid raising taxes on borough residents, its anticipated two percent increase in expenditures will require about $95,000 to be deducted from Hellertown’s fund balance of $1.7 million, Hartranft added.

However, sanitation customers should plan to pay about five percent more for both residential and commercial services, she noted. Recycling fees will remain unchanged, but the 2023 dumping fee will also undergo a modest increase.

Elsewhere, Mayor David Heintzelman said the borough’s annual Halloween parade, held Sunday, Oct. 23 was a success.

The mayor noted that the celebration at Dimmick Park at the end of the parade, which was a new addition this year to commemorate the borough’s 150th anniversary, might become an annual feature. Vendors selling food and beverages were “very satisfied” with participation and resultant income, he added.

However, Heintzelman did express disappointment that some local campaigns did not adhere to the parade’s “non-political” policy, with the 2022 midterms near. He especially criticized the Saucon Democrats’ distribution of voter registration forms, saying “I feel we announced [the policy], we put it on Facebook… that really was very low of them.”

Press photo by Chris Haring While the Hellertown Area Library has the funds to remain solvent for approximately two more years, officials and residents expressed concerns about replacing Lower Saucon Township's usual $100,000-plus contribution.