Li­braries may face a bud­get crunch

Pre­lim­i­nary out­look re­veals chal­leng­ing num­bers

StarMetro Toronto - - FRONT PAGE - David Hains Metro | Toronto

Toronto Pub­lic Li­brary’s early bud­get out­look could mean tough choices for the pop­u­lar in­sti­tu­tion.

In a report to be con­sid­ered by the Toronto Pub­lic Li­brary board Mon­day evening, the pre­lim­i­nary bud­get out­look calls for a 3.2 per cent rev­enue in­crease -— $5.73 mil­lion — to main­tain cur­rent ser­vice lev­els.

That num­ber is sig­nif­i­cantly greater than city coun­cil’s ap­proved tar­get of no in­creases for all city di­vi­sions, agen­cies, boards and com­mis­sions, which could set up fur­ther bat­tles about ser­vice cuts and ef­fi­cien­cies as the bud­get process un­folds.

While the li­brary’s pro­posed bud­get won’t be sub­mit­ted to city coun­cil un­til Sept. 25, the pre­lim­i­nary out­look il­lus­trates chal­lenges to achieve coun­cil’s re­quest. Li­brary work­ers will re­ceive a con­trac­tu­ally agreedupon cost of liv­ing wage in­crease in 2018 that equals a 1.4 per cent bud­get in­crease. TPL will also have to fig­ure out how to per­ma­nently fund some pro­grams rather than draw­ing on re­serves.

Coun­cil­lor and li­brary board mem­ber Sarah Doucette doesn’t like where this leads.

“It has been a cut ev­ery sin­gle year,” she told Metro, adding that she’s not a be­liever in flatlin­ing bud­gets for all di­vi­sions.

Over the past seven years, the staff count at the TPL has been re­duced by 5.7 per cent, ac­cord­ing to bud­get doc­u­ments.

Doucette called on Mayor John Tory to con­sider the big­ger pic­ture for the forth­com­ing bud­get.

“Keep your prop­erty tax at a rea­son­able rate to fund what we need,” she said.

May­oral spokesper­son Keerthana Ka­malavasan told Metro the pre­lim­i­nary out­look is just the first step.

“Fi­nal­iz­ing the city’s bud­get is months away; the bud­get di­rec­tion is the be­gin­ning of the process to set a tar­get for city di­vi­sions and agen­cies,” she said in an email.

The mayor’s of­fice ap­pears un­will­ing to back away from its zero per cent tar­get at this time.

“Just like Toronto fam­i­lies re­view their bud­gets ev­ery year and look for ways to save money, the Mayor be­lieves city hall must do the same,” Ka­malavasan added.

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