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Ephrata library, zeroed out in Akron borough’s budget, gets public support at council meeting

  • Gabriela Martínez
Akron Borough resident Michael Morris speaks in favor of funding the Ephrata Public Library at the borough council meeting on Monday, Nov. 28, 2022.

 Jeremy Long / WITF

Akron Borough resident Michael Morris speaks in favor of funding the Ephrata Public Library at the borough council meeting on Monday, Nov. 28, 2022.

Akron Borough’s plan to cut library funding met opposition from the public at Monday night’s council meeting.

About 70 people showed up to support budgeting money for Ephrata Public Library, which the borough has done for more than three decades. 

Heather Martin, an educator who works for a homeschooling association, said she is in the library at least once a week checking out books and other digital resources for her students. 

“It really impacts the students that I work with and I’m concerned about what kind of message that is sending to young people,” Martin said.

Councilman Paul Swangren had previously questioned sending money to the library because some of its programs do not align with what he calls “conservative values.” He said he felt uncomfortable with a women’s health program.

Rebecca Beres, who runs the women’s group, defended her program, which she says is not funded by taxpayer money.

“I focus on educating women, and giving them the information giving them the opportunity to learn about themselves, their bodies, feeling comfortable in their own skin,” Beres said after Monday’s meeting. “A lot of times, especially in this, quote, conservative area that we live in, we’ve been told not to talk about anything that relates to sex.”

Monday afternoon, council president Nathan Imhoff said the $20,000 was needed for infrastructure projects. He didn’t rule out sending money to the library.

He said that after discussion, the council agreed to remove all funding from the Ephrata Public Library in order to “balance the 2023 budget and not raise taxes.” Council member Randall Justice also said council cut library funding from the proposed budget for financial reasons, not Swangren’s “conservative values” stance. 

“This decision was not made lightly,” Imhoff said.

akron borough ephrata library

Jeremy Long / WITF

Akron Borough Council President Nathan Imhoff reads a prepared statement at the council meeting on Monday, Nov. 28, 2022. He said a decision not to include funding for Ephrata Public Library in the proposed budget was based on financials, not on one council member saying the library didn’t align with “conservative values.”

He said the projects are expected to cost more because of inflation, but the borough isn’t sure what the total cost will be.

“If there is surplus, depending on how much we have, we would give to the library because everybody on council understands how important a public library is to its community and all the resources that it gives,” Imhoff told WITF in an interview before the meeting.

Last year, the library received $20,000 dollars from the borough budget. That’s a fraction of the library’s $1.1 million budget.

Imhoff said the plan would be to put zero in the library’s line item in the borough’s proposed budget, but that council would revisit funding to the library in the form of an “unbudgeted donation” at the end of 2023. Imhoff also asked the library to give suggestions as to specific needs or projects that the donated money would fund.

Council is expected to vote on the budget at its meeting next month.




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