Library budget tabled as municipal wage issues go unresolved

A 2013 budget proposal by the Vanderhoof Public Library reflects the rising cost of municipal wages and benefits packages

A 2013 budget proposal by the Vanderhoof Public Library reflects the rising cost of wages and benefits packages.

In the budget, the Library Board of Trustees accounted for a two-per-cent rise in employee wages and benefits, as well as an exterior paint job that could cost between $5,000 and $10,000, according to estimates by the municipality.

The wages and benefits of library staff have increased about three per cent since 2011, which is generally consistent with municipal employees who belong to the labour union CUPE 1642, said Donna Klingspohn, chair of the Vanderhoof Library Board of Trustees.

“The employees of the library, we compensate them on the same benefits package as municipal workers because we are a municipal program,” said Klingspohn.

But the 2013 packages for library staff could still change.

In recent years, municipal workers – public works employees, arena staff and some municipal administrative personnel – negotiated a wage and benefits package with the District of Vanderhoof that increased by about three per cent annually.

“We tend to have the same cycle,” said Tom Clement, deputy administrator for the District of Vanderhoof.

But a new agreement between workers and the municipality has been ongoing since Dec. 31, 2011, when the previous three-year-contract expired.

Negotiations on wage increases between the town and municipal workers will almost definitely spill over into 2013, said Randy Bailey, president of CUPE 1632, and an employee for the Vanderhoof public works department.

“I think the discussion is to try and get something, but it seems like nothing is available from the district… for a raise,” said Bailey.

Presuming that the municipality will grant the workers a two per cent increase in wages and benfits for 2013, the library board has gone ahead and allotted identical compensation to library staff in the budget, increasing total wages and benefits expenditures from $143,200 to $146,256.

“We’re looking forward to that, and hopefully we can reward our employees the same,” said Klingspohn.

The municipality is the largest contributor to the library’s budget, providing more than 70 per cent of operating grants since 2011, or about an average of $141,050 per year.

The library, a not-for-profit service, generates very little revenue to buffer operating costs, which increased three per cent in 2012 to $213,749.

On an annual basis, overdue fines bring in $2,000 while the multipurpose room – a meeting room that is rented out to for-profit groups for a nominal fee of $20 per day – generates $300.

“It’s pretty tough to generate revenue when all your programs are free of charge to people of the region,” said Klingspohn.

Provincial funding has been relatively stable since 2011, and years ago larger libraries in highly populated areas ceded funding to benefit smaller libraries. Regardless, the municipality has been highly supportive of library initiatives, including the strategic plan to improve area literacy, explained Klingspohn.

“They have not cut our budget either,” she said.

The library’s 2013 budget was presented to Vanderhoof council at a meeting on Nov. 26, about a week prior to the release of a Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) report that ranked Vanderhoof as 56 out of 153 B.C. comumunities – 153 being the best – in terms of responsible municipal operating spending based on population growth and inflation rates.

In northern B.C., Vanderhoof ranked 10 out of 30 communities.

The CFIB report took into account real operating spending per capita growth from 2000 to 2010 and the 2010 level of operating spending per capita.

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