Library funding increase request approved by Ponoka County

County agrees to the $60,000 request, up from $45,000 from the previous year

Being able to provide some back up when asking for a funding increase ultimately proved to be a windfall for the Ponoka Jubilee Library.

Library manager Dan Galway, along with library board chair, Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye (also the editor for Ponoka News), made a presentation to Ponoka County council at its meeting on Feb. 13. The library requested a donation hike of $60,000 for 2018, up from $45,000 in 2017.

Wages as well as an increase in operational hours in September, when the library is expected to move into its new space at the Community Learning Centre, are the main drivers behind the request. Library clerks would see their pay go up 30 cents to $16.30 per hour with a planned three per cent annual hike to help retain staff. An additional incentive of $2 per hour will be given for time spent developing and running programs to encourage employees to take some initiative.

Hikes in the minimum wage and the proposed 10.5 hour per week increase in operations, that comes with nearly $5,300 in extra wages, have also been factored into the request.

Galway noted 2018 is unique for the library.

“We hope to be able to maintain our upward trajectory and implement all goals set in our plan of service. The Ponoka Jubilee Library aims to be the central hub of Ponoka,” explained Galway.

Heyden-Kaye added the funding provided by the county isn’t a requirement, but the library recognizes and appreciates that Ponoka County is going above and beyond with its support. He also explained funds from the Town of Ponoka and the library’s reserves, as well as a pending grant application will be used for the move, meaning county funding is strictly for operational expenses.

Galway pointed out that in 2017 the library served more of the community than ever before.

He explained that 47,850 people walked through the door with computer usage being a big reason as 27,775 individual sessions were recorded.

In addition, other areas also saw an increase as cardholders rose to 2,040 up from 425 — 550 being from Ponoka County — while 174 programs attracted 2,996 participants, a rise in attendance of 71 per cent for the 121 programs ran in 2016.

A couple of concerns were expressed about services provided and the library’s approach to funding.

“One question is when we see one of the primary goals of the library is to serve the adjacent Indigenous community, what are they or have they been asked to contribute?” said CAO Charlie Cutforth.

Galway stated the move is about education and reducing barriers. It was also noted that Parkland Regional Library did receive a $110,000 provincial grant to serve First Nations population. It’s up to Parkland to ensure how that money is distributed.

Reeve Paul McLauchlin explained the county will do what it can to assist in engaging the four bands plus both the provincial and federal governments to push for funding, noting the county pays its share and figures it’s reasonable that others do the same.

Coun. Mark Matejka was also curious about the library’s expansion of programs noting his belief the Ponoka Youth Centre and Parentlink offer similar programming choices.

“Are we duplicating services?” he asked.

That suggestion was met with a differing opinion from Galway, who explained the library meets different needs with different hours than the Ponoka Youth Centre. He also stated the library operations are for all ages and that groups like the youth centre also book and use their facility.

It wasn’t until later in the meeting that council discussed the request, eventually giving it unanimous approval.

For Matejka, he focused on how high the next funding request will be, “The problem I see is, yeah we can bump it to this number, but when you start negotiating the number is going to higher, quicker from my perspective.”

Meanwhile, McLauchlin had issues with the new space for the library.

“My concern is the new building, $25 per square foot is insane to me at 7,000 square feet,” he said.

However, he did explain that funding of operations can’t go by used by residents, “We can do per-capita, but then you just basically created the formula for everyone to ask for money. I would like to go by budgets, fiscal restraint and discretion.”

CAO Charlie Cutforth did note it is better to help those that help themselves, which the library is doing, and how reasonable is it for 500-plus residents to have services at a cost of $60,000.

“The way I look at it, and I’m not arguing for or against, if the library is becoming effective in what they do then an extra $15,000 is cheap to accomplish the kind of increase they are seeing,” he said.

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