Government Opinion

Letter: LST is ‘Holding Tax Dollars Hostage’ in Library Dispute

Hellertown Library

Letter-writer Laura Ray of Lower Saucon Township says a modest endowment the Hellertown Area Library has been able to build over the past five years doesn’t mean that the library should be expected to “operate in the red and be penniless before they receive funding.” She asks Lower Saucon Township to fund the library at the level requested in a five-year agreement council rejected earlier this year.

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Hellertown Library

The Hellertown Area Library is located at 409 Constitution Avenue in Hellertown, Pa. (FILE PHOTO)

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.

Library 2020 990 Email

Above is a screenshot of an Aug. 23, 2021 email from Hellertown Area Library director Noelle Kramer in which she advised library board members–including then-Lower Saucon Township council member and library board liaison Kristen Stauffer–of an upcoming meeting. Attached to the email was the library’s 2020 form 990; a yearly Internal Revenue Service document that provides the public with financial information about a nonprofit organization. Current Lower Saucon Township council member and former library liaison Jennifer Zavacky said at council’s Feb. 16 meeting that council “still” had not received the form as requested as of Jan. 25, 2022. Similar statements were later repeated by council members at their March 16 meeting.

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.

Laura Ray
Lower Saucon Township

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Letters to the editor should be about general topics of local interest and must be signed. Views expressed in letters and other opinions shared on Saucon Source are solely those of the author and should not be interpreted as representing the views of the publisher, advertisers and/or others affiliated with Saucon Source LLC. Letters may be submitted to jo**@sa**********.com for consideration.


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About the author

Josh Popichak

Josh Popichak is the owner, publisher and editor of Saucon Source. A Lehigh Valley native, he's covered local news since 2005 and previously worked for Berks-Mont News and AOL/Patch. Contact him at

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