"Cowardice asks the question...is it safe? Expediency asks the question...is it politic? Vanity asks the question...is it popular? But conscience asks the question...is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it because it is right." ~Dr. Martin Luther King

Monday, 23 February 2009

Budget matters

The Library Board came to Council's budget meeting on Saturday.Their budget includes an increase for an additional librarian for children's services. Because of the town's growth, they have been unable to meet all the requests for services from various community groups which is part of their mandate.

There are four new schools coming on stream, including a high school on Wellington Street. At the start, the high school will have six hundred students which will grow to thirteen hundred as grades are added. They will be within walking distance of the library which means Children's Library Services will be under even more pressure than that which we are currently unable to meet.

Councillor Gallo pointed out schools have their own libraries and librarians. The claim startled me. I haven't had children in the school system for several generations but I understood the Province had literally wiped out school libraries with cuts in funding some years ago. Librarian Louise Procter-Maio, confirmed my understanding .So that settles the matter. The board cannot provide necessary service without an additional librarian. From a cost perspective it is certainly cheaper to provide a librarian in the town library than one in every school in town.

Growth means increased revenue. New homeowners pay their share of taxes. I would argue development charges paid when permits for new homes are issued, means they pay more. Ninety-per-cent of the cost of new facilities are funded from D.C.revenues. .

A puerile little comi- drama was played out in council a couple of weeks ago. Councillor Collins-Mrakas and myself were asked to explain a year-end surplus in the Board's collection budget. The question was posed by Councillor Wilson, who also serves on the Library Board. To the obvious amusement of the other side of the table, including the Mayor, we were unable to provide the answer. The board had not received the year-end financial statement of the library. It had been forwarded to the Town Treasurer. and obviously pre-viewed by Councillor Wilson and the Mayor.

The town reduced the library budget last year. An allowance for an increase in the collection could not be made which meant the previous year's level of service could not be maintained. I argued we should not be setting up a new arts and culture program if we couldn't afford to maintain the one we had.

I voted against the town budget for that reason. There were others but that's where I chose to hang my hat.

There were reasons for the surplus. The librarian was new to the library. The year was almost half over by the time the budget was approved. Libraries are subject to publishers' schedules.. Orders are placed but there's no control of timing for deliveries.If books are not received before year end, payment is not made.

Ergo.on the books, a surplus.... in Council.... a churlish childish tit-for-tat and game of one-up-man-ship with library services as the pawn.


Anonymous said...

Look no further than the Town's website - Library budget request is 10.5% increase over last year.
Councillor Buck and Councillor Collin-Mraskas get those costs under control. Asking the municipal taxpayer to pay for a school Librarian! Who are you kidding and who are you representing? Good on you for asking Councillor Wilson!

Anonymous said...

Get serious, or gimme a break. How many times does ONE taxpayer have to pay?
I pay education tax. I pay Aurora tax, I pay provincial tax... and you want to increase my taxes by giving the COMMUNITY library specifically for the "children's section". It's a section that gets the most attention. Parents enjoy buying books for their kids.
Each school has a budget to improve their collection every year.
Schools have book fairs to target the group that needs books.
This is a time to tighten our belts.
I was shocked that you would recommend this expense.
I thought you wanted to hold the line.
I don't understand you anymore.

Heather Sisman said...

I don't agree that the province has wiped out school libraries. The few schools I'm familiar with in Aurora have libraries and librarians.

And.... yes, the new high school will be in walking distance of APL, but high school students don't use the children's section. Or do they?

Anonymous said...

Yesterday I said I didn't understand you. You didn't want to deal with me, but you have a comment from Heather Sisman.
I live in Aurora am a senior on a fixed income and you think I don't matter. Now I understand the Aurora Citizen and what people say.
It didn't happen to me before, but now it did.

Robert the Bruce said...

I happen to have someone quite close to me that is a Librarian. According to them, a real Librarian has a Masters degree from an accredited University. So, having known this person for over 25 years, I have a unique perspective on Library Services. Fortunitly, this particular Librarian does not work for Aurora but another municipality in York Region.

A school library and school librarian are only a subset of what a Public Library provides. As a rule, the school Librarian is not a "real" Librarian but a teacher that took a specialty course during their teachers' college programs. The materials within a school library are meant to support the curriculim. School funding includes libraries and as mentioned their collection is serving a particular need - Mike Harris did not kill everything all those years ago!

For the Library Board - on it's own or as individuals of that board - to use the new high school as justification for a children's librarian was just asking for trouble with Council. High school age students would not be using the services of a children's librarian. They would not go to Story Time or use any of the other Childrens' programs. They may use the services a Youth Librarian.

A Children's librarian would benefit the elementary level schools and that is where the focus for justification should be.

Mr. Gallo unfortunitly has his head in the sand however as to school libraries vs. public.

Regarding the reasons for the surplus. All valid, however we all know that in public organizations, if you don't spend it this year, you'll loose it. if orders were made, the costs should have been encumbered so that it would properly relfect in the books (accouting books).

I love the APL but I can't afford a tax hike said...

The Ontario government has been very restrictive in public school library spending in recent years. This was admitted when they recently announced a $15 million "School Library Investment Project". Schools are scrambling now to use their allotment before March 31, 2009 - essentially $1,500per school library. It does not buy a lot these days.
School Library resource materials are not necessarily the same as Public Library resource materials. School libraries support curriculum based learning, Reading Recovery and Literacy skills development, reference and resources etc., and not just in the traditional book format.
While Public Libraries may support such educational endeavours at the community level, their purchasing decisions are made with the expectation of the most "loan" value for the general populace.
Statistically, recessions increase the service required from Public Libraries - job hunting resources, internet access. This, in addition to the population and cultural changes in our community, means that the APL will be required to do more for more people, but potentially with less funding. I hope we at lease keep the current funding for the APL through the "economic downturn".
Although I'm an ardent supporter of the APL, and can remember when it was located at The Victoria Hall, I cannot afford a tax-hike.

My message to the Mayor and Councillors for the budget process is that you can't be all things to all people, and the economic reality is that the average tax-payer can NOT afford any tax increase at any time, but especially now.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Gallo was appointed, not elected, but he'll have to answer to the electorate if he decides to run for election again. And, if we're lucky, the electorate will not elect him next time either!