Delegates approve budget increase for Chinook Regional Library
Municipal delegates at the Chinook Regional Library's fall board meeting approved an annual three per cent budget increase for the next three years.
The 2019-21 budget was presented during the meeting in Swift Current, Nov. 3. The delegates represented the local authorities in the Chinook Regional Library's service area.
Chinook Regional Library Director Dr. Jean McKendry was happy with the outcome of the vote at the meeting.
“I think today was a good meeting,” she said afterwards. “We're very pleased that we've passed a three year budget with three per cent increase in each year and now we can get on with our strategic planning.”
The Town of Maple Creek and the City of Swift Current voted against the motion to approve the budget as presented for three years, but both emphasized their ongoing commitment and support for the services provided by the Chinook Regional Library.
Town of Maple Creek Councillor Michael Morrow, who is the chair of the Maple Creek Library board, was unable to be at the meeting. He told the Prairie Post that the town's delegate at the meeting voted against the motion because of some concern about approving a budget for three years.
“The Town of Maple Creek is fully in favour and in full support of the Chinook Regional Library system and the Saskatchewan library system,” he said. “The budget itself, we do approve of it. It was the length that was a bit of a problem there, but all in all we do support the full budget itself.”
He considers an annual budget increase of three per cent over the next three years to be reasonable.
“With the way inflation is, every year things cost more and the three per cent, I believe it's very modest and that will keep all the branches open,” he said. “I think it's enough for each municipality to be able to accept right now, but at the same time we do need more provincial help as well.”
Morrow noted that libraries are a vital part of communities, but he is worried that the burden on municipalities will become too much if there is not more funding support for the library system from the provincial government.
“It is our stance that looking over the last six or seven years, the government has not been putting up their share of money,” he said. “They have not been increasing their amount to our library system, which is putting a strain on the rest of the municipalities. So we really stress that the government has to step up with the library system and to start supporting it more financially. As costs go up every year, we do need more help from the government itself.”
Councillor Ron Toles, the City of Swift Current representative, indicated the City voted against the motion due to a technical matter.
“The thing we said no to was not necessarily the three-year,” he said after the meeting. “I would support a three year, although I can't commit our council after 2020. There's an election and I can't commit the 2021 council to doing what we say, but I can't imagine them not, because we've always been a supporter of the library. So I wasn't opposed to a three year. The thing that was in the budget that we were opposed to were the numbers.”
The formula that the Chinook Regional Library uses to calculate the municipal grant is based on the population numbers in each municipality from the 2016 federal population census. The population data for Swift Current was therefore used to calculate the City's municipal grant in the budget.
For 2018 the Chinook Regional Library requested $444,208.47 from the City, but the allocation in the City budget was actually $414,753. The Chinook Regional Library based the three per cent for the 2019 budget on the original amount requested in 2018, but the City felt the calculation of this budget increase should be based on the smaller amount.
“As a City, we can't do that because we put it down last year,” Toles said. “We didn't support it last year. So this year we're supporting an increase over the $414,753 that we gave last year.”
He believes a budget increase of three per cent by the Chinook Regional Library is a reasonable request, but the actual amount allocated for 2019 in the City budget will only be known in December.
“We're not opposed to a three per cent increase or an increase in that range, but we are opposed to the numbers that they used that we defeated last year,” he said. “Our budget hasn't been approved yet, but I think around three per cent is a reasonable guess.”
He noted that the City owns the building where the Swift Current Branch Library is located and the City is therefore responsible for the capital maintenance of the building.
“Last year we redid all the washrooms to make them accessible, we replaced a lot of floor, we painted a lot of offices, we replaced some furniture,” he said. “We spent a lot of extra capital money on that as well last year. This is simply operational budget and so our budget amounts for library, whether it's Chinook or Swift Current branch, is well in excess of the $444,208 that they were asking for, but we can't do both.”
According to Dr. McKendry the City has the right, under the terms of the Public Library Act, to turn down the budget proposed by the Chinook Regional Library, because the City contributes more than 25 per cent of the municipal funding. However, the City's vote does not influence the rest of the municipal vote.
“What we're looking for is a majority vote among the rural municipalities and we got that,” she said.
The approval of the 2019-21 budget at the meeting will assist the Chinook Regional Library with future planning and to work on a new strategic plan.
“Strategic planning helps guide us to provide better library service in the region,” she said. “We have some ideas about what we've got to work with when we have a three-year budget.”
An annual three per cent budget increase over the next three years will make it possible for the Chinook Regional Library to keep up with inflationary costs and to still have some money available to improve programs and services.
“My philosophy about how libraries should serve communities is librarians help people to help themselves,” she said. “So we want people to come to the library to learn about technology or we want children to experience maker's space, or we want people to learn how to use a 3D printer, because these are all possible at the library, and then sometimes people create new knowledge by the things they learn at the library. It's about lifelong learning and it's about a place to share ideas.”
Budget data provided at the meeting indicated that the provincial government's grant to the Chinook Regional Library has increased from $12.47 per capita in 2006 to a high of $14.25 in 2014 and 2015, but thereafter it dropped to $14.04 in 2016, $13.90 in 2017 and $13.88 per capita in 2018.
The per capita contribution from municipalities continued to increase over the past 12 years. It was $10.28 in 2006 and it reached a new high of
$20.28 per capita in 2018.
Municipal delegates vote on the budget motion at the Chinook Regional Library's fall meeting, Nov. 3.
Chinook Regional Library Board Chair Patrick Simpson speaks during the board's fall meeting in Swift Current, Nov. 3.
Chinook Regional Library Director Dr. Jean McKendry presents details about the budget at the fall meeting in Swift Current, Nov. 3. Board Chair Patrick Simpson is seated next to her.
City of Swift Current Councillor Ron Toles addresses the Chinook Regional Library Board's fall meeting Nov. 3.
City of Swift Current Councillor Ryan Plewis speaks during the Chinook Regional Library Board's fall meeting.