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Library wants more money from city

Terrace’s Public Library is asking for more money this year to maintain status quo operations.

Its request to the city is $25,000 higher than last year, and is coming to council for discussion at a Dec. 4 budget meeting.

The $482,000 city grant request is higher this year due to expected wage and benefits increases arising from upcoming contract negotiations for unionized workers, said the library’s treasurer David Try at a council meeting Nov. 13.

“I cannot trim much without cutting into labour,” said Try, adding that while the library has received 3.9 per cent more money over the course of five years, inflation during that time has been 13 per cent. “I’m going to ask you, please don’t give us less.”

Library workers are represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) with contracts set to expire Dec. 31.

For the last two-year contract, unionized library workers received a two per cent pay increase yearly, with last year’s wages plus inflationary costs being about $15,000 more.

Try said another pay increase is being budgeted for 2013 although contract negotiations have yet to start. He says this year’s estimated increase falls in line with the city’s unionized employee wage increases for its CUPE contract at two per cent yearly over the last two years.

“In many communities, the public library is simply the  department of the city,” said Try, adding that the library board now is made up of volunteers and that without it, city staff could be doing the job instead. “I would think that the contract that the city sets with their own employees would certainly guide the library board forward in terms of how we would do our negotiations.”

For library negotiations to start, the last two-year CUPE contract will need to be “signed off” before a new one can be set, said Try.

“I’d be happy to start bargaining right now with them,” he added.

The library spends about 75 per cent of its total budget on wages, said Terrace’s head librarian Margo Schiller.

The starting wage for a position at the library depends on the job.

For example, in 2012 a student who shelves books would receive $10.61 an hour to start, while a library assistant would receive $18.80.

The facility has 15 unionized staff, two non-unionized management positions,  and a volunteer board of directors.

When asking for an increase for 2012 during this spring’s budget talks, the library said it would have to shut its doors for two weeks to keep up with staff pay increases should it not see one.

This did not happen as Terrace city council agreed to up its operating grant nearly $15,000.

For the city, the library represents the biggest cost for a service paid, one which the Regional District of Kitimat Stikine also pays at roughly a 70 – 30 split.

Last year, the entire operating grant received by the library from the two municipal governments was $557,490.

As the library cannot charge for its base services or access into its building, its income generating abilities are limited.

With that said, Schiller said the library fundraised $100,000 in 2012.

“Last year we heard from council that we had to put more efforts into fundraising,” said Schiller. “We listened.”

On average, the library sees 371 visits each day, 2,450 weekly, 10,650 monthly and 128,000 yearly.

This doesn’t include visits to its web resources, which clock in at another 92,580 yearly.

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