Library budget sparks debate

A QUERY from a Terrace Public Library board member at the Nov. 8 all candidates forum sparked near-unanimous praise for the facility.

A QUERY from a Terrace Public Library board member at the Nov. 8 municipal all candidates forum sparked near-unanimous praise for the facility.

Simon Thompson, in a question directed to council incumbent Brian Downie, wondered if the city would increase the grant it provides the library so that library employees could receive the same raise afforded city employees.

While Downie spoke of the library’s importance, he said it consumes the largest portion of the city’s culture and arts budget.

He said the best answer would come next spring when council sets the city budget.

“It’s just a fiscal reality,” he said of money issues, adding that tax dollars in Terrace are tight and have to be allocated to the priorities the city faces.

Incumbent candidate Bruce Bidgood was applauded when he said a decision to reduce the city’s tax levy for heavy industry might have otherwise produced dollars for the library.

“I’m sure if we took that $80,000 dollars we gave to a company which had already closed its doors on Terrace, and given it to the library we wouldn’t even be having his conversation,” Bidgood said in reference to the now-dismantled Terrace Lumber Company/Skeena Cellulose mill.

Candidate Tyson Hull drew boos from the audience when he asked how far a community of this size will continue to go to support the library, when there is a library in every school and at the college already.

“It is an institution, and it needs to be protected, but at what cost can you keep affording to spend on the library here in Terrace. We are already committed to $600,000  a year for one downtown library,” Hull said.

“At some point we have to decide where we cap this off,” Hull said, adding the library should try and come up with creative solutions to increase its budget, or rent out some of its space to something like a coffee shop.

He was rebuked by candidate Mike Ross who pointed out that while Hull had made a mention of fiscal restraint toward the library, he seemed to have no problem giving money to My Mountain Co-op.

James Cordeiro was applauded when he stated that he is unsure of how you would put a price on knowledge.

A library board member, Cordeiro said  he knows every penny is checked three times over before it is spent.

”That (the public library) is a facility within the city that is paid for by the city, and open to everybody regardless of economic position,” Cordeiro said.

MaryAnn Freeman said while she plans to be very cautious with public money, she is in favour of helping the library based on the importance of reading for children and adults.

Lynne Christensen voiced a continued support for the library saying she feels it is a real priority in the community.

“As school systems are cutting back there are gaps it can fill there,” she said. “It’s more than just reading it offers all kinds of programs, it really is the heart of the community.”

Dan LeFrancois was the final candidate to engage in the library debate saying, that while he agreed with the importance of our library in town, he feels you cannot also put a price on health and recreation.

“If we stop funding My Mountain Co-op it’s only a matter of time before those recreational businesses in town, such as All Seasons, or McBike and other shops start closing down because there won’t be any citizens in the community to back these corporations,” LeFrancois said. “So I am sorry, I believe that yes as much as education is important we have to rely just as much on our recreation.”

Grants

THE COMBINED grants from the Regional District of Kitimat Stikine and the City of Terrace amounted to $527,850 in 2008, $543,600 in 2009 and $545,363 in 2010, indicates the annual reports  prepared by the library for those years.