1.3 percent increase in library budget ‘too low’ for ‘invaluable service’ says councillor


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A proposed 1.3 per cent budget increase for the Windsor Public Library has an outgoing councilor denouncing the city’s “addiction” to keeping taxes down at the expense of improving services.

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The library’s proposed budget of $9.48 million for 2023 was presented to the board Tuesday and included an increase of about $119,000 from last year, primarily to cover a 50-cent statutory minimum wage increase beginning in October. The library expects to spend $8,000 of the requested increase on COVID-related expenses such as improved cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment.

Only $2,700 of the additional funds would go toward service improvements.

“To be honest I think it’s too low,” said Ward 3 Coun. Ask Rino Bortolin of the library’s budget. As chairman of the board, he said he would have supported an 8 percent budget increase if it had been proposed because the library’s services were “invaluable” to residents.

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“I think at some point there has to be a discussion about what we value in this community,” he told the board. “I can say that since I’m retiring this year, but we tend to keep taxes low without knowing what level of quality we’re getting for this minimal investment in our library service.”

Other agencies, panels and committees have been “very reluctant” to come to the Council and ask for budget increases “because we’ve always been trying to cut and cut for many years,” he said.

Rino Bortolin, outgoing Ward 3 Councilman and Chair of the Library Committee is pictured Tuesday August 16, 2022 at the Chisholm Library branch in South Walkerville. Photo by Dax Melmer /Windsor Star

Since Windsor’s long-term debt peaked at $230 million in 2003, the city has been digging its way out of the hole until last year. Along the way, the city council adopted a pay-as-you-go approach to funding large projects, seeking savings wherever it could to get the debt under control without having to rely on tax increases.

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But in 2021, the city’s tax-supported debt dwindled to zero, and it was in a financial position stable enough to make debt financing for the purchase of land at the battery plant and the Meadowbrook housing project viable.

“(The library) is a very prudent, lowly question,” Bortolin said. “I hope that we can get to a point in this city where we don’t shy away from asking for increases in these kinds of budgets because we appreciate the Windsor Public Library’s services.

“If you look at the amount of programming and the mountain of amazing things that the staff are doing — the executives have been able to put out new programs, we see the movie nights, we see all these things out there — the value for money that we got as library service is ridiculous.”

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The $2,700 for proposed service improvements would fund a new poet-in-residence program with the city’s Poet Laureate.

Also during Tuesday’s session, Kitty Pope, the library’s CEO, presented the library’s standard annual investment projects, one of which is branch office renovations. Each year the library focuses on renewing one of its branches. Approximately $33,000 is earmarked for renovations to study cubicles, seating, and shelving at the Riverside branch over the next year. Digital signage – another capital project – will also be included in the Riverside branch for an estimated $45,000.

Procurement of materials is another capital project. In 2022, despite COVID-19, Pope reported that nearly 100,000 customers checked out more than 1.2 million resources from the library, up 7.6 percent from the previous year. 40 percent of people borrowed printed books and 60 percent chose digital resources. Although intangible digital assets cost the library more money, Pope said, an e-book lease costs about $60 and an audiobook lease costs about $81, compared to a $22 hardcover book.

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“As much as this is the format our customers want to read now, it’s costing us more,” Pope said. “We are trying to make a plan for the future, taking into account that leasing costs are increasing and restrictive rules for borrowing e-resources are in place.”


The library also plans to upgrade the self-checkout units in its branches over a six-year period beginning in 2028. This project is estimated to cost $600,000 but will end in 2032 and 2033.

As for upcoming events, the library will host another outdoor movie night at Fontainebleau Park (2960 Rivard Ave.) on Friday. The film, Sing 2, begins at sunset, but the gathering begins at 7 p.m

The library has also entered into a new partnership with Art Windsor Essex to add nine free gallery visitor passes to its collection. The cards grant library customers free entry to the Kunsthalle and can be borrowed for seven days. Each branch has a passport.

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