Motion to Approve Cobourg Library Budget Passes Despite Question of Increase

In City Hall, Local

By Jeff Gard/Today’s Northumberland

A motion to approve the Cobourg Public Library’s 2023 budget passed during council’s operating and capital review Tuesday, but not without another suggestion to reduce its six per cent increase request.

There was no initial discussion or motions on the floor from councillors before members of the gallery had an opportunity to ask questions. A member in that audience said he understands the importance of library service to a community, but in a tough budget year asked if a three or four per cent increase was feasible and still provide the services. “How does that look and what’s the difficulty of doing that?” he asked.

Mayor Lucas Cleveland wondered if council could go back to the library management and ask if they can come back with a lower number in respect to their budget increase request.

“Having sat on the (library) board for four years and going through four of their budget processes, I do know that they are absolutely bare bones and have scraped every single penny that they possibly can,” said Councillor Adam Bureau. “I do know that going back is only going to hurt the services that we provide to our community and to me I think with what happened in 2020 when we had a zero per cent budget increase on that really actually hurt the library and many other services. Having voted on that I will take the blame on part of that and this is part of that catch-up. To me this is a good budget for the library. It will provide the services that they need and for our residents.”

Councillor Brian Darling said the library is very important to the community, but thought the costs should be noted. Doing his own quick math, he said based on a 20,000 population for Cobourg, the library costs $51.14 per person whereas the Art Gallery of Northumberland costs $7.50 per person. Darling didn’t expand on the different services the library and art gallery each provide to residents, based on that comparison.

“I just want the taxpayer to realize what each one of these cultural entities cost us,” Darling said.

Deputy Mayor Nicole Beatty said the library is an invaluable service.

“We see that in all of our surveys – public, social, community space. I would hate to see this go back to the library board and delay our budget process,” Beatty said. “I’m confident that library staff have been hearing the discussion over the past few weeks and can work with this new board to come back forward in 2024. I have to agree with Councillor Bureau. There were a few years there where I think we maybe did a disservice to many of our departments by pausing some of the funding…and this is some catch-up. I think it would be disingenuous at this time to send it back to a brand new board (appointed at Monday night’s council meeting), but I do think library staff are hearing this discussion and I also think that council is hearing how important the library is to the community.”

Councillor Miriam Mutton said she supported and concurred with the deputy mayor’s comments.

The mayor said having heard the conversation from council, “I can see I’m a bit of a lone wolf on this one.” He added council members could leave the library budget on the board and revisit it later if they get into an overspending situation with the budget.

Councillor Bureau disagreed and put a motion on the floor to approve the library budget at this time.

Darling said “at this time” is key and council could still discuss the library more later on before town clerk Brent Larmer offered clarification.

“We are in a council setting so when a motion is on the floor then the procedural by-law takes precedence therefor if this motion passes and it’s approved, the only way to reverse it would be a motion to reconsider and that rule is the one that was in the affirmative of that is the only one that can bring that motion back to the table,” Larmer explained.

Deputy Mayor Beatty and councillors Bureau, Burchat, Mutton and Randy Barber were in favour to pass the motion. Mayor Cleveland and Councillor Darling voted against.

CEO Tammy Robinson didn’t have an opportunity to clarify the reason for the six per cent ask during Tuesday’s budget meeting, but contacted later Tuesday said it’s largely due to staff wage increases.

“The agreements regarding increases to wages are first negotiated by the Town of Cobourg with their staff, for both union and non-union staff, and then the library follows these same wage specifications,” Robinson said. “This is done to ensure that the pay equity comparisons for library staff remain in line with positions in the town’s staffing complement.”

Robinson said of the six per cent increase, which amounts to $55,680, 4.1 per cent directly relates to wages and a further 0.9 per cent relates to the associated staffing expenses such as EI, CPP, pensions and more.

“Beyond staff, our budget increases are direct expenses and as we all have been feeling over the past year, the costs associated with expenses has dramatically increased,” Robinson said.

“The library is a service organization – we serve all members of our community. To provide the many great services that the library offers, we need to fairly compensate our staff who in return provides our community the best service we are able to with no frills or unnecessary expenses.”

The town’s full 2023 budget is set to be finalized Thursday.

Jeff Gard
Author: Jeff Gard

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