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Fort Frances Public Library and Technology Centre, undated. Image: Randy Thoms/Acadia Broadcasting

Council rejects need for bigger budget cut at library

By Randy Thoms Mar 6, 2024 | 3:05 PM

There is little appetite from some members of Fort Frances council to trim the library budget.

Administration put forward a proposal for a 5% reduction, double that proposed by the library board.

The library board’s proposal includes plans to reduce hours by five a week and not hire one student.

Councillor Mike Behan says he can not accept anything lower.

“I think that going any further than that would result in very drastic, if not draconian impacts to the library in terms of the programs and services they can offer our community,” says Behan.

A presentation to council last month noted that 87% of the library’s budget is uncontrollable costs.

Chief Administrative Officer Travis Rob says on a per capital cost, the library’s operating costs are the highest in the region.

“We’re highest by 25%. In addition to that, over the last twelve years, so from 2012 to 2024, the library budget has increased by just shy of 30%,” says Rob.

“In comparison, the overall town operating budget has increased by 3.5 per cent. Of that 3.5% budget increase, almost 20% of it was due to the library increases.”

Mayor Andrew Hallikas, who has served on the library board for several years, defends the importance of the facility.

“The library is expensive to operate, but you have to look at what you’re getting from it,” says Hallikas.

“It’s a jewel. It’s a gem of our community. And when we have visitors, it’s one of the first places that people take guests from out of town to have a look at.”

Hallikas says it also provides invaluable services to people of all ages, but especially seniors and young people.

Councillor Wendy Brunetta also supports the budget the library is offering, and its ability to find efficiencies.

“Perhaps this is a good time for all of our departments to think about the coming year, to start planning for ways to find efficiencies, because I don’t think this is going to get better,” says Brunetta.

Rob says it has been done.

“We’ve done this. I think in the next twelve months, council needs to decide what service level they want to give to the community because there’s no more fat to cut. It’s been cut, so there’s no efficiencies defined,” says Rob.

The savings offered by the library board amount to about $14 thousand.

A 5% reduction would save the town an extra $16,000.