Editor’s Note: This will be part one of two on some of the issues faced by the school district and Phoenixville Public Library.
Several months after the Public Schools Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS) ruling that library employees are school district employees, issues are still surfacing.
The library’s board of trustees voted recently to hire legal counsel, and has up to $10,000 in the budget for that. A policy on how to select new trustees is also working its way through the school board, and there is a question of whether or not an issue with the library code will hinder the Phoenixville Public Library from being a part of the federated Chester County Library System.
Library Trustees Vote to Hire Legal Counsel
At the March regular school board meeting, Board President Paul Slaninka gave an update from the most recent library board of trustees meeting. Slaninka, along with Superintendent Dr. Alan Fegley and Treasurer Josh Gould, serve as the school district’s representatives on the board of trustees.
Slaninka told the school board that the library’s board will be hiring legal counsel to help work through some issues that have cropped up since the PSERS ruling in November.
“They have $10,000 budgeted for legal advice,” Slaninka said. “They are going to spend some of that money to find out what rights they have under the situation that we’re now currently working under.”
As of this writing, the board of trustees is still undergoing the process of hiring that legal counsel. Phoenixville Public Library Board of Trustees President Sue Meadows said in a phone interview that the move was made to get other opinions and see if they differ from those given by Ron Williams, the school district’s solicitor, at meeting.
“We felt that we needed to seek outside counsel,” Meadows said, noting that the board of trustees’ focus is solely on the library, while the district solicitor works for the school board.
Slaninka told the school board at its March budget meeting and at the regular board meeting that he will keep the school board in the loop regarding the legal counsel. He said he will ask for all communication with the lawyer as well as the costs involved.
Worries About the Library’s Status with the Chester County Library System
At a recent library board of trustees meeting, a move to approve the Chester County Library System Agreement caused concern.
That document gets voted on every three years as it is updated, Meadows said, and one of the provisions is that the library signing the agreement is working under the library code.
The library code, however, states that there can be no more than seven and no fewer than five members on a library’s board of trustees, Slaninka said at the school board meeting. Dating back to provisions in an 1895 agreement, the Phoenixville Public Library’s board of trustees has nine members.
In the past, the school district sent a liaison, Slaninka said, and that changed when Board Member Dr. Daniel Cushing noticed wording that stated that the school board president, treasurer and superintendent were to be on the board of trustees.
That all occurred in 2011, and the switch was made to have the three school district representatives on the board of trustees. Those three serve with six community members who were in the past appointed by the library board, with the name of the appointee sent to the school board for a final approval.
Meadows said if the system advisory council document is not approved, there’s a chance the library could be removed from the Chester County Library System. During a prior discussion on the matter at a board of trustees meeting, Slaninka voted against approving the document, and Fegley abstained, Slaninka explained to the school board.
Meadows said the issue will likely be up for another vote at the library board of trustees meeting in April. She said she hopes it will pass.
“Not being a part of [the county library system] would be enormous,” Meadows said. “I really truly hope for the community’s sake that it does not come to that.”
The library system provides some funding to Phoenixville Public Library and has many other benefits, including interlibrary loan, Meadows said.
Slaninka said at the school board’s meeting that he hopes to find out more information, and the question is whether or not to follow the school code or library code.
There will be a second part of this article posted on Phoenixville Patch.