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Victoria checks out 4.1% funding increase request from library

The library board is looking for a 5.99 per cent increase in funding from all 10 of its municipal funding partners
The central branch of the Greater Victoria Public Library. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Citing pressures from labour, security and supply costs, the Greater Victoria Public Library has asked the City of Victoria for a 4.1 per cent funding increase for 2024.

In a package made public this week, the library noted it is not immune to inflation.

“Increased pressure on staffing levels and service delivery has impacted the operating budget. We are in an increasingly complex operating environment, and this has placed demands on operational administrative staff support for things such as security, for example,” said library chief executive Maureen Sawa.

The library board noted it is in the process of creating a dedicated security position for the library system due to its operating environment.

“It is an absolutely safe place, but it’s a different environment than it was two or three years ago,” Sawa said, adding there are also positions relating to social support for staff and the public. “We do have significant, I would say, mental health issues downtown; it’s simply the environment we operate in. We offer a barrier-free space, and we welcome the individuals to the space, but of course that does come with challenges. And so those are the big pressures on the budget from the labour side.”

The board is looking for a 5.99 per cent increase in funding from all 10 of its municipal funding partners — only Sooke, Sidney and North Saanich do not contribute in the capital region.

Next year’s budget is $20.7 million, an increase from the $19.5 million in 2023. Ninety per cent of that budget is made up by municipal contributions.

The board is hoping Victoria’s contribution for 2024 will be $6.73 million, an increase of $225,702 over last year. Victoria’s contribution represents about 32.7 per cent of the total budget.

The impact on the typical Victoria taxpayer would be about $2.34.

The biggest percentage increases are on the West Shore, as Colwood faces an increase of 11.4 per cent, Langford 9.9 per cent and View Royal 8.1 per cent.

According to the library, Victoria’s 2024 contribution is based on assessment values and population.

“The library board and staff have worked hard to develop a budget for 2024 that is realistic and resourceful,” said Sawa, noting the cost of everything has increased — they regularly see 10 to 15 per cent increases added to bills from suppliers.

At the same time, the system’s 12 branches are busy with 16,900 new cardholders registered between January and September this year, more than 1.2 million in-person visits and 2.8 million physical items circulated.

In-person visits at the central branch in downtown Victoria are up 17 per cent over last year with more than 263,000 people through the doors.

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