Library Administrator asks Commissioners to defend library funding

In the face of a potential 55% cut in State library funding, County Library Administrator Susan Hauer addressed the Commissioners at their Wednesday meeting, urging them to continue contacting their State government colleagues and to petition for sufficient Library funding. This request, Hauer said, comes during the PA Library Association’s “Call-In Week,” during which patrons are encouraged to call and encourage their local legislators to “keep library funding at the forefront in the state budget negotiations.”

Hauer noted that this 55% cut would amount to $2 million of State funding no longer flowing into Lancaster County. If the cuts go through, the Ephrata library has already planned to close on Fridays and Sundays as of September 1 and the Elizabethtown Library will close on Fridays, as well. “Other libraries across the county are contemplating closing a day or two and laying off staff,” Hauer said, “Lancaster Public Library has already laid off staff.”

Hauer recounted that, last night, a customer of the Lancaster Public Library called Senator Smucker’s office and was asked by an aid, “Are you willing to pay higher taxes?” The caller replied that he would, in fact, be willing to do so. Hauer said that she “was glad that Senator Smucker’s office asked the question, and I think that…there needs to be some sort of movement in a direction that they haven’t gone before.”

Commissioner Scott Martin told Hauer that the Commissioners have maintained communication with their local State delegation. “They’ve shown their commitment and prioritization for government services,” Martin said.

Commissioner and former State budget analyst Craig Lehman told Hauer that she had you have every right to be concerned, “because everybody that I talked to up in Harrisburg still says that we have a long way to go.”

Lehman proceeded to weigh in the State’s fiscal situation and some of its causes:

“While the economy is certainly to blame, many of the problems that the State is facing right now go back to the 1990s. There were years in the 1990s where pension funds simply lived off their interest…And then, even in this decade, there have been a couple of occasions where, to balance the State budget, providers were simply only paid for eleven months….These are the type of financial decisions that have been made—and continue to be made—that leave the State in a very precarious situation when the economy tanks….And there are really no easily answers in Harrisburg right now, as far as the budget is concerned.”