Cuts to Norfolk library services proposed

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Regular patrons of the Norfolk Public Library should prepare for changes in the delivery of front-line services next year.

Norfolk council recently directed the library board to reduce its 2021 draft budget 10 per cent compared to the budget approved in January. The results of these deliberations were presented at Governor Simcoe Square on Oct. 13.

“Ten per cent is extremely difficult to find in the budget,” library board chair Adam Veri said via video link. “It’s already a razor-thin margin. Anything we do is going to be felt by the public.”

This council’s first two budgets have been challenging. Previous councils drew down reserve funds while costs continue to escalate in the face of a rapidly-growing infrastructure deficit.

Into the mix steps the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic turmoil this entails.

A report to council says the board’s six library branches cost nearly $1.8 million to operate in 2019. This includes $31,800 for a mini-branch at Norview Lodge in Simcoe, which the board has included in its list of proposed cuts.

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Other proposed cost reductions include:

  • $63,400 in salaries and benefits through the replacement of three vacant library assistant positions with employees who don’t have a library tech diploma.
  • $56,900 in savings by closing all branches three Saturdays per year while reducing hours in Delhi, Port Dover, • Port Rowan and Waterford 3.5 hours a week each. The Saturday closures would occur on the Victoria Day, Simcoe Day and Labour Day holiday weekends.
  • $12,300 in salary by having an employee of the Port Rowan branch offer seven hours of general customer service a week as a Norfolk pilot project.
  • $37,300 in miscellaneous savings through a line-by-line review of the board’s budget.

The library board has also taken on a fundraising co-ordinator. As well, the board is prepared to forgo wage increases for performance in 2021. A planned cost-of-living increase for staff of 1.6 per cent is expected to add $23,000 in expenses next year.

The board’s report says the county’s six branches saw nearly 275,000 in-person visits in 2019.

There are nearly 130,000 “titles” (books, etc.) across the system, with the highest number — 44,000 — at the Simcoe branch. There are nearly 21,000 active card-holders across the system.

Veri expressed hope that council will soften its position and restore some of the proposed cuts come budget time.

Norfolk clerk Andy Grozelle told council that it cannot direct spending within the library system because this is the board’s responsibility according to legislation. However – as holder of the purse strings – Norfolk council does control the amount of money the library board has to work with.

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