A library board budget increase of seven per cent has two Qualicum Beach politicians concerned.
“These types of increases aren’t acceptable,” said Coun. Dave Willie, who is calling for more accountability and transparency in terms of library board spending.
According to a Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) news release, the board adopted a balanced operating budget of $23,038,586 for 2014 with municipal and rural levies accounting for $18,678,364 of the budget.
The 6.94 per cent increase is part of a 10-year fiscal plan for the library system that services 38 communities across the Island.
Most recently, VIRL opened branches in Cowichan Lake, Cumberland and Port Renfrew.
Willie said residents may not be able to afford these new facilities.
“Maybe we need to slow down,” he said. “I don’t know that for sure, but it’s a conversation I’d like to have.”
Willie wants to see more dialoge between the library board, town council and residents.
“I feel somewhat powerless as a council when we don’t have much input,” he said, adding that he takes issue with the fact that residents will see a tax increase by the library board as a tax increase by the municipality.
Coun. Scott Tanner, who was recently appointed as the town’s reresentative to the library board, said he shared Willie’s concerns.
Tanner attended his first VIRL meeting Jan. 18, and he told The NEWS he was shocked to see the “substantial” seven per cent budget increase.
“The conclusion I came to is there needs to be closer examination of the operation of the library,” said Tanner. “Everything presented to the board is basically rubber stamped.”
He said the meeting did not generate a great deal of debate, something which left him concerned about the board’s seeming “disconnect.”
“I’m going to be keeping an eye on this and updating council from time to time,” said Tanner.
But VIRL director of finance Adrian Maas said the library is an autonomous body and “not a department of the municipality.”
Maas explained the budget increase stems from long-term issues which were unaddressed in the past.
“For years they (the library board) artificially contained the budgets,” he said. “So now there are a lot of issues to address.”
Maas said finances are “all about rational planning and dealing with issues over time.”
He said that although the seven per cent increase may seem steep, “it potentially could have been much worse.”