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Vancouver Island Regional Library asks RDN to collect more tax dollars

VIRL budget for 2024 totals $38 million, a 15 per cent increase from 2023
The Vancouver Island Regional Library’s Wellington branch at Country Club Centre in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file photo)

The Regional District of Nanaimo is being asked to collect more tax dollars for Vancouver Island Regional Library this year.

Ben Hyman, Vancouver Island Regional Library executive director, spoke to RDN’s board at its Jan. 9 meeting, presenting on VIRL’s $38 million budget for 2024, representing a 15-per cent increase over 2023. Previous management didn’t budget properly and significant spends include a 22-per cent increase in wages and benefits, to $19.4 million, and a 37-per cent rise in leases, security and utilities, to $1.8 million.

RDN residents readily use library services, the executive director said. Seven branches located within the RDN see an average of 1,220 people using the library daily and there are 430,000 visits annually and 51,000 cardholders, according to Hyman. In addition, there were 823 events held in regional libraries, with 16,000 people attending and 900,000 items from the collection circulated in the region. The RDN is expected to collect $3.3 million from taxpayers in electoral areas for VIRL in 2024, while the City of Nanaimo and District of Lantzville would collect $6.5 million and $300,000 respectively, according to the library’s 2024 budget.

Electoral Area A’s 2024 requisition increased to $513,880, from $432,165 in 2023. Jessica Stanley, director for Area A, said the library is the biggest source of taxation in her jurisdiction and wondered why the increase wasn’t spread over a longer period of time to “lessen that blow.”

“In terms of thinking of a right-sized budget, so that we wouldn’t continue that narrative of the previous administration of under-budgeting and overspending, [VIRL’s] board was really clear it wanted to have operating continuity and that meant we needed to bring the budget up right away to meet the actual cost of carrying the services, the workforce, the facilities, security and those things, so that’s the one-time adjustment,” said Hyman.

He said it hasn’t been a typical year or a typical budget shift, and there is now a better understanding of where the costs are.

“This is what modern, thriving public library service now costs,” said Hyman. “If I could go back 10 years, and raise that conversation, that would’ve been the time to spread that out over 10 years and now we’re in it and post-COVID, it’s that perfect storm of combination of forces.”

The seven RDN branches are the most VIRL has in one regional district, said Hyman.

RELATED: Bad fiscal management partly blamed for big VIRL budget

Karl Yu

About the Author: Karl Yu

After interning at Vancouver Metro free daily newspaper, I joined Black Press in 2010.
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