Chartiers-Houston Library in danger of closing

June 3, 2014
Chartiers-Houston Community Library in Houston is in danger of closing because the local school district is poised to withdraw funding. - Jim McNutt / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

A fixture in the communities of Chartiers Township and Houston for almost 50 years may have to close its doors if it does not find a new revenue source to replace the funding it had received from Chartiers-Houston School District.

The board of trustees of the Chartiers-Houston Community Library was notified by school district officials several weeks ago that the 2014-2015 tentative budget does not include the annual $50,000 donation. The school district’s contribution funded about a third of the library’s $147,000 annual budget.

“The Chartiers-Houston Community Library is in trouble,” proclaimed Bill Hill, president of the board of trustees. “Unless we can replace that money, we will have to close. We will not have enough to pay the staff, keep the lights on or pay the insurance.”

The tentative school district 2014-15 budget of $17.3 million would raise taxes 9.0125 mills, hiking the rate to 119.5125 mills. The district has operated at a $1 million deficit for the last two years and was given permission by the state to hike taxes more than the state-mandated cap.

The district’s financial woes can be traced back to a lack of funding from the state and increased costs of funding the pension account and special education programs, said business manager Don Bennett.

“We are trying to find ways to cut back and tighten our belts,” Bennett said. “We may even have to furlough personnel.”

Bennett said the budget and possible furloughs will be discussed during a budget session Monday.

“The district has always been extremely supportive of the library,” Bennett said. “But it is coming down to drastic cuts. We’d love to continue the support, but it is going to be hard to do that.”

The school district owns the building at 790 W. Grant St. that the library uses at no charge, Bennett added. The district will continue to provide routine maintenance.

The library board has used Keystone grants to make recent improvements to the building, including new windows and a heating/air-conditioning unit.

Hill said students from Allison Park Elementary School recently donated 1,400 books to the library as part of a service project.

“That makes a big statement that they love the library,” Hill said. “I told some parents about what was happening with us during the elementary school concert, and they were shocked.”

Hill said that on a recent Saturday, there were more than 100 people in the library. He said it is used on a regular basis by patrons of all ages, from toddlers and preschoolers in the summer reading programs to high school students and senior citizens.

“Obviously, people use it,” he added. “They all love our little library.”

The library trustees have approached the Chartiers Township supervisors, asking them to consider increasing their annual allocation. The township currently gives $20,000 to the library. The board has not yet discussed the request, said Jodi Noble, township manager.

Houston Borough gave the library $1,500 this year. Hill said the library receives $8,000 from the county and $34,000 in state aid. The balance of the budget is made up through fines, fundraisers and donations.

The trustees are planning to mail a letter, at their personal expense, to school district residents to inform them of the library’s plight in the hope that increased donations will allow them to keep the doors open.

Bennett said the final budget is expected to be adopted at the school board’s June 16 meeting.

Kathie O. Warco has covered the police beat and transportation for the Observer-Reporter for more than 25 years. She graduated from Duquesne University with a degree in journalism.

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