Regina Public Library gets funding increase in city budget

·4 min read
The Regina Public Library will be getting a bit more funding through the 2021 year.  (Bryan Eneas/CBC - image credit)
The Regina Public Library will be getting a bit more funding through the 2021 year. (Bryan Eneas/CBC - image credit)

The Regina Public Library is getting a funding increase, following this week's approval of the city's 2021 operating budget.

City council approved the budget on Thursday, which includes a 2.9 per cent mill rate increase for the public library system.

The increase to the mill rate (the amount of tax payable per $1,000 of assessed value on a property) dedicated to the library system is separate from the 2.34 per cent mill rate increase that council approved on Wednesday.

The Regina Public Library says the new mill rate will translate to the average homeowner paying about $5.50 more per year.

The library said two per cent of the increase will be used to pay for a wage increase for staff who are part of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), while the rest is to increase the library system's technology and collections.

"I think the library is providing a really essential service during COVID," Joanne Havelock with Friends of the Regina Public Library told city councillors during the budget debate on Wednesday.

"I think the value of it outweighs the concerns of it being a small increase in people's taxes."

Coun. John Findura, shown here at a 2020 council meeting, defended the Regina Public Library's request for an increase.
Coun. John Findura, shown here at a 2020 council meeting, defended the Regina Public Library's request for an increase. (Matt Duguid/CBC)

The library's increase passed with an 8-3 vote, with Couns. Lori Bresciani, Terina Shaw and Landon Mohl opposed.

Ward 5 Coun. John Findura was among those who spoke in favour of the increase. He said the library has been doing a lot of programming throughout the pandemic and people are utilizing those resources during COVID-19.

"For me, it's a very important part of our society, our community," Findura said.

"The newcomers that come into our country, that's where they reach out, search and find ways of navigating through our city," he said. "I know it's tough but it's a small price to pay for a large part of what the libraries do."

Ward 4 Coun. Bresciani called the library's request for increased funding "absolutely poor timing," citing challenges to the city's finances brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"When people get their bill … it just compounds that the city is raising their taxes," she said.

Digital technology demand soars during pandemic

In its report to city council, the Regina Public Library outlined its hopes and priorities for 2021.

"The world's response to COVID‐19 continues, and at this point it is hard to tell what might happen next. Regardless, RPL has taken its learnings from this situation to prepare for the future," the report said.

The Regina Public Library has been doing curbside pickup and drop off during the pandemic.
The Regina Public Library has been doing curbside pickup and drop off during the pandemic.(Micki Cowan/CBC)

Demand for digital technology rose strongly during the pandemic, the library said. Online programming and e-books use jumped by 131 per cent, use of audio e-books increased 80 per cent, and online movies and TV numbers jumped by 338 per cent, according to the library.

That demand led the library to create several projects for 2021, including:

  • Improving its network and cloud-based security.

  • Improving its Wi-Fi network.

  • Expanding computer and 3D printing access for people.

  • A new digital notification system to share information about library programs.

The library is also preparing to bring a renewed central library plan to city council. The work has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic but is expected to be completed by mid-winter. After the plan is approved by council, the library will start on the different stages of community engagement.

"While 2020 is an anomaly, we know that our near future will not be 'back to normal' — there will be a new normal, and we will be there to help shape it," the library said.

The library anticipates its revenue will be about $25,870,109 million. This includes the tax levy, provincial services agreements and other grants. The library estimates its 2021 operating and capital expenses will be a total of $25,185,303.

City administration will bring forward a bylaw later this spring to formalize the increase.