Sechelt Library’s request for a large funding increase provoked a lengthy discussion at the SCRD’s budget meeting on Jan. 23, but no final decision was reached.
In 2014, the Sechelt Library signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with its funders—the District of Sechelt, the SCRD and the Sechelt Indian Government District (SIGD)—which guarantees them a six-per-cent funding increase per year for five years.
Although the MOU has another year to go, Sechelt is now requesting that local governments pay more. In a presentation to the SCRD, Chief Librarian Margaret Hodgins stated that in 2016 the Sechelt Library received 59 per cent less local government funding per capita than other libraries serving similar sized BC communities.
The library requested an overall increase of $262,274—$145,027 from the District of Sechelt, $106,092 from the SCRD and $11,156 from the SIGD.
Director Bruce Milne, speaking on behalf of Sechelt, said: “We thought that five years was adequate, a wonderful way to provide stable funding and independence and autonomy to the library.”
Hodgins responded: “It is stated in the MOU almost verbatim that the goal of the funders who are the signers of the MOU, was to close the per capita gap.”
Several directors expressed confusion over the statistics presented and wondered if they were looking at “apples and oranges.” Area F Director Ian Winn said he was struggling “to try and grasp how and why the Sechelt library is in the position that it’s in that it’s got an MOU that has an escalator… of five to six per cent when we just heard from the Gibsons Library and they can provide the same level of service and increase levels of service and go through expansions and do renovation work at 1.8 per cent.”
Area B Director Garry Nohr responded that Sechelt funding has lagged Gibsons for many years. “They’d be very, very close if all the funders presently involved were all paying their fair share,” said Nohr. “If we were all doing that, the Sechelt Library wouldn’t be here cap in hand again.”
The four taxation areas that fund the Sechelt Library contribute at different levels. According to figures provided by the library, in 2017, SCRD Area B paid $41.38 per capita, the District of Sechelt paid $36.08, the SIGD paid $15.80, and Area A paid $10.75. Hodgins said the provincial per capita average for similar sized communities was $49.64 in 2016.
Area A Director Frank Mauro pointed out that it is “difficult for folks from Egmont to come to the Sechelt library” and noted: “I thought when we signed the MOU four years ago that a six-per-cent increase per year was fair.”
The agreed-on six per cent annual increase is already included in the 2018 SCRD budget. The library’s additional funding proposal was referred to the second round of budget in March. Area D Director Mark Lebbell said that a “bigger picture discussion” was needed on library equity.
In 2017, the total budgeted operating expenses for the Gibsons library were $671,136 and for Sechelt were $689,276.
According to statistics provided in the budget presentations, Sechelt Library had 124,284 public visits in 2017, and 166,824 physical items were checked out. Gibsons reported approximately 86,000 visits, and 171,048 items checked out.