Library Funding is Line Item That Can be Sacrificed, Ross Commissioner Says
Commissioner Chris Eyster suggests that officials ask voters to pay more in taxes to continue funding Ross Township's portion of the costs of the Northland Public Library.
Ross Township should ask its residents to pay extra in taxes if they want to continue funding the Northland Public Library, Ross Township Commissioner Chris Eyster said Monday.
Eyster floated the idea of asking voters to cover the annual $400,000 payment to his colleagues during the township's Board of Commissioners meeting, where an ordinance for the 2012 appropriation budget was introduced.
The proposed $15.2 million operating budget includes a 4.3 percent increase in spending over the current year's budget, but shorts township department employees' requests for spending on infrastructure such as road paving and parks improvements.
"My political thinking is it’s more important to have roads that are paved properly than a library in another municipality," Eyster said. "I would be more comfortable if there was a referendum authorizing an additional tax."
The idea was not immediately embraced by other commissioners. They postponed discussion on the topic in committee and did not raise the issue again during the regular meeting.
"It’s not the library causing us to have a shortfall in paving," said Commissioner Pete Ferraro. "It's the general economic climate."
Eyster has presented several ideas to the board to find more money in the budget to use toward line items the township engineer said are needed. Art Gazdiktold Ross Township’s Board of Commissioners in October that Ross Township needs a dedicated capital fund for its paving program and parks system — even if that means asking for another tax increase.
Among Eyster's earlier proposals was one to reduce health insurance costs by eliminating — or significantly reducing — health insurance benefits provided to the nine elected officials on the board. The coverage costs for the board members make up about 7.5 percent of the township's $1.8 million budget for health care.
That proposal, which has appeared on the board's public agendas each month, has not been taken up again for discussion. Eyster said Monday he expects to present a draft ordinance on the topic to the board again after the start of the new year.
Commissioners made no further comments on the 2012 budget, which was drafted for their review in October. A budget committee formed in August by a 7-2 vote of the commission has not met, according to chairman of the commission Dan Kinross.
"It appears it's not going anywhere," he said about the committee in an interview after the meeting.
Also during Monday's meeting, Commissioner Dan DeMarco, who serves on the Northland Public Library Board, asked the commissioners to consider providing space to the library in the Ross Township Community Center, if space could be found.
"I don’t want to necessarily take away from any usage if there’s high usage (of the community center rooms)," he said. "By the same token, the library is attempting to do whatever it can to bring more resources closer to the residents here. Is that a possible location?"
A report from the township manager on where space might be found and the impact on community center activities is expected at a later meeting.
Also Monday, the board voted 5-2 to spend up to $45,000 in funds remaining from this year's paving budget toward the repair of a retaining wall behind the Law Office of Martin Lazzaro at 7240 McKnight Road.
The wall, part of "Old McKnight Road," is township property and its disrepair is threatening the business, according to Art Gazdik, the township engineer.
The agreement drafted between Lazzaro and the township provides for sharing the cost of repairs and grants him ownership of the wall in exchange for coordinating the contracting work and future maintenance.
Commissioners Ferraro and Grace Stanko voted against the agreement.
Commissioners Gerald O'Brien and Lana Mazur were absent Monday.