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Milne questions Sechelt library funding request

Milne questions Sechelt library funding request

The Sechelt Public Library is asking for more money from all five of its local government funders to bring it up to par with other BC libraries. Their five-year funding agreement, which expires in 2018, gives them an increase of five to six per cent each year, but Chief Librarian Margaret Hodgins says that’s not enough.

On September 13, Hodgins made a presentation to Sechelt’s Finance, Culture and Economic Development Committee. She said that average funding for all BC libraries in 2016 was $40.69 per capita but that Sechelt only received $28.97. The average for libraries in similar sized communities was $49.64.

“This agreement that we have currently is not closing the funding parity gap for the Sechelt Library,” said Hodgins.

“The Sechelt Library is asking the District of Sechelt for an additional $145,027 contribution in additional operating funds for 2018. This amount will close the parity gap for the District of Sechelt. Our goal is that each area who is a signatory to the agreement will close their identified per capita parity gap for libraries serving similar size populations.”

The five funding partners are the District of Sechelt, Sechelt Indian Government District, and SCRD areas A (Pender Harbour), B (Halfmoon Bay) and D (Roberts Creek). In 2017 those five funders provided about $593,000 of the library’s $690,000 operating budget. The provincial government contributed about $68,000.

Mayor Bruce Milne cautioned that the committee would make no decisions on the matter that day because library funding was not on their agenda. However, he pointed out that the requested increase would represent an additional two per cent tax increase for Sechelt taxpayers, when the District has already committed to a five per cent increase to cover infrastructure replacement.

“While we might agree that there is a need for escalating library funds, the real question is how do you do that and how fast?”

Milne did his own calculations and said that under the present five-year contract, library funding had increased at a faster rate than the population.

“The funding increase in this current contract is over three times the population increase [in all five areas] ,” said Milne.

“When we look just at the District of Sechelt, our population has gone up 8.9 per cent and our per capita contribution has gone up 19.24—so just about double the population increase—and our total contribution [including capital funding] has gone up 30 per cent,” said Milne.

He also took issue with the library’s ‘parity gap’ argument.

“In public policy terms, just because everybody else is doing it is actually not a good rationale.”

Later in the same meeting, the committee turned down requests from Habitat for Humanity and Sunshine Coast Search and Rescue to waive development cost charges (DCCs) for building projects.

Staff recommended that the requests be denied because the Local Government Act only allows municipalities to waive DCCs for affordable rental housing. Habitat for Humanity homes are purchased by the families who live in them and do not qualify. Search and Rescue is expanding their existing building adjacent to the SCRD offices, but that project is also ineligible.

Milne noted that the library, Habitat, and Search and Rescue are all “great services and really important to our community.”

“But there’s no financial resources from the taxpayers available to distribute at this time.”  Donna McMahon

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