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Library seeks public input on budget cuts

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The Norfolk County Public Library board of directors is looking for the community’s input on their programming.

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As part of the Norfolk County budget, the library has been asked to have a 10 per cent, or $289,000, reduction in its 2021 spending.

The cuts will be spread across the six branches in Simcoe, Port Dover, Delhi, Waterford, Port Rowan, and at Norview.

A survey has been created by the board to be filled out by library users.

NCPL board chair Adam Veri is not looking forward to the cuts.

“There’s not a lot of fat to trim,” Veri said in a press release. “Management is already allocating resources effectively and eliminating superfluous expenditures. Unfortunately, being well-managed leaves the Library Board with no obvious solution to reduce costs without significantly impacting service to the public. We’re heading toward an inevitable reduction in operating hours and potential cuts to programming.”

Closing a branch is also an option being discussed.

Library CEO Heather King said added expenses from COVID-19 safety equipment and the cancelled fundraisers have been offset by the temporary staff layoffs due to the closures.

“We have saved money in wages from layoffs, but this is offset by a significant loss of revenue from room rentals, fines, and any future fundraising events such as the Norfolk County Fair book sale,” King said in an email to Postmedia. “We have also had the expense of adding sneeze guards to all circulation desks, PPE for staff and replacing some furniture for the public that can now be disinfected after use. Overall I think we will break even from the funds saved offset by extra COVID-19 related expenses for the year.”

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The Simcoe branch re-opened to public access on July 2. The other branches opened July 6. Hours and schedules have changed for the branches.

While COVID-19 has added some costs, it has also added patrons.

Since the end of February the number of active library cards has increased by 790. At least 100 new cards were issued as virtual cards to access the online content available during the pandemic closures.

Municipal funding accounts for 92 per cent of the library’s budget. The remaining eight per cent comes from a provincial grant, fees and service charges, and donations.

Human resource costs are the library’s top expense, consuming 63 per cent of its budget.

Other expenses include services to the public, library materials, supplies, interdepartmental charges, long-term debt, and transfer to the library’s reserve account.

“I can say with absolute certainty that the board is taking the results of the community engagement project seriously and that the needs of the public will guide the decisions the board makes going forward,” Veri said in an email. “The engagement strategy is designed to help the board determine the value of the services the NCPL provides to the community, as opposed to just looking at cost. The more input and feedback we receive from the surveys and focus groups, the better decisions we’ll be able to make.”

The survey is available online at ncpl.ca for avid library users to fill out. Surveys were to be completed by July 13.

As of July 7 over 500 surveys have been completed.

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