Editor’s Note: At their most recent meeting, Lower Saucon Township Council did not discuss a recent proposal for a possible library services agreement by the Hellertown Area Library’s board of trustees. However, a number of residents–including this letter’s author–spoke in support of township funding for the library during a period that is reserved for public comment on non-agenda items. The HAL and the township began negotiations over library services after council voted 4-1 in January to donate $50,000 to the library instead of approving a new five-year agreement worth roughly $500,000. At the same meeting, township council voted 4-1 to donate $50,000 to the Southern Lehigh Public Library and, separately, 4-1 to authorize a lawsuit against the Hellertown library if it denies services to township residents. Township council members have alleged that both library and Hellertown borough representatives failed to communicate important information with them during last year’s library agreement negotiations, although little if any evidence to support those claims has been shared publicly to date. The library board has rejected the township’s donation and adopted a new agreement with Hellertown borough. Lower Saucon Township residents are currently permitted to use the Hellertown Area Library on a provisional basis–the township’s prior agreement with the HAL expired Jan. 31–while HAL representatives consult with the state Office of Commonwealth Libraries. Since township council meetings are not currently being streamed online, resident-blogger Andrea Wittchen has been streaming them on her Saucon Shenanigans site’s Facebook page. The next meeting will be held Wednesday, April 20 at 6:30 p.m. at the township building.
To the editor:
I’m very disturbed with the amount of false and misleading information provided by council members during their meetings. I no longer believe anything they say and do fact-checking to untwist their version of the truth.
The timeline listing the back and forth communications that councilwoman Jennifer Zavacky produced at the February meeting somehow didn’t include some very important emails from August 2021, where documents were provided to the township, including HAL’s 2020 audited financial statement. The township received the 2020 financial information they say they never got. Banonis and Carocci insist they never saw any of it.
Council solicitor Linc Treadwell said the forms 990 from HAL (2016-2019) “shows a profit in excess of $500,000 for that four-year period, which means their income exceeded their expenses by over $500,000.”I looked at the 990s and saw these numbers:
- (2016) total revenue $327,401 – total expenses $247,992 = $79,409
- (2017) total revenue $260,164 – total expenses $258,413 = $1,751
- (2018) total revenue $435,754 (includes gifted amount $219,018) – total expenses $269,306 = $166,448
- (2019) total revenue $308,677 – total expenses $288,874 = $19,803
In total this shows a “profit” of $267,411. That amount is close to the one-time gift they received and is nowhere near $500,000. So without that endowment they don’t show huge profits.
Councilman Tom Carroci harps on this all the time, though: about how HAL says they are operating in a shoestring. He says they’re sitting on a pile of money. In actuality, HAL does operate on a pretty tight budget.
I think it’s very prudent of them to try and hold on to that small endowment they received. Who knows what the future holds? A natural disaster that’s not fully covered by insurance or the need to replace the HVAC system or maybe an expansion could be costly.
It’s not right to expect the Hellertown Area Library to operate in the red and be penniless before they receive funding. The library deserves to know they can depend on a steady revenue stream that a contract would provide.
Stop holding our tax dollars hostage! Township residents want our community library to be funded properly.
Lower Saucon Township
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