VIRL 2023 budget: 8.1 per cent average levy increase

VIRL 2023 budget: 8.1 per cent average levy increase
Cowichan Lake Vancouver Island Regional Library branch. (Nicholas Pescod/CHEK News)

Vancouver Island Regional Library’s $33 million budget for 2023 has been approved, with 86 per cent of trustees voting in favour of it.

Municipal and regional district levies will contribute just over $27.5 million to the budget. The average levy increase over 2022 is 8.1 per cent. The Regional District of Nanaimo electoral areas’ levy for 2023 will increase 9.89 per cent over 2022 for a total of $2,773,748.

Four trustees voted against approving the 2023-27 financial plan, including Vanessa Craig, who represents the RDN. Sixteen trustees, including the representative for the City of Nanaimo – the largest region in the system – were not in attendance for the vote on Sept. 24.

“With 38 trustees, ours is one of the largest boards in B.C. in any sector, so absences are not unusual,” VIRL said in a statement. “Quorum was achieved and maintained throughout the Sept. 24 regular meeting. On matters of budget, VIRL relies on a weighted vote.”

Quorum is one-half of trustees plus one, VIRL’s procedural bylaw stipulates.

Craig, whose vote counts as 40 against the total 405 in a weighted vote, had not responded to a request for comment as of press time.

“Like so many other sectors, libraries have seen significant increases in the costs to deliver our critical services,” Joel Adams, VIRL’s director of finance, said via press release. “With 97 per cent of our costs fixed, there is little room for us to shave our budget without negatively impacting our services.”

Approximately 65 per cent of operating costs are for wages and benefits. The second greatest fixed operating cost for the library system is rent, representing nine per cent of the budget.

“I truly believe now more than ever is the time to commit to investing in our libraries,” Board Chair Gaby Wickstrom said. “After all, libraries ensure equitable access to technology, educational materials, children’s resources and so much more, no matter your circumstances or challenges.”

Trustees for Parksville, Port Alberni and Alberni Clayoquot Regional District also voted against the budget.

VIRL said collections expenditures will remain at 13 per cent of its total operating budget for 2023. Digital collections continue to see high demand while usage of physical collections remains stable, VIRL said.

Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter/Gabriola Sounder via The Canadian Press

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