Windsor Public Library Cuts Halved

Windsor Public Library Cuts Halved

The city council of Windsor, Ontario, agreed February 26 to reduce proposed budget cuts to the Windsor Public Library from $790,000 ($812,011 U.S.) to $400,000 ($411,145 U.S.). The decision to back off from the original figure came after the library board refused to make the cuts—10% of WPL’s budget—on the grounds that up to four branches would have to close, and that it would also necessitate major cuts in hours and staff.

The city had hoped that the library could absorb the original cuts without closing branches or reducing hours, but the library board found potential reductions of just $92,000 ($94,575 U.S.), citing that $6 million ($6.2 million U.S.) of the library’s $8.8-million ($9 million U.S.) budget is associated with employee wages and benefits. Therefore, only acquisitions of books, newspapers, computers, and services could be cut.

“No other [city] department of any substance has been held to cut 10%,” library board Chairman Alan Halberstadt told the Windsor Star February 23. “Why pick on libraries? We are willing to take a cut—but 10%? What’s the deal here?”

“This is not about issues city council has with the board, but the issues of governance and management I believe the board is also concerned about,” Mayor Eddie Francis told the Star February 27.

But some were pessimistic that trustees would cooperate with even the decreased budget cuts. Declaring that the library board “can tell us to go pound salt” at a slated March 3 emergency meeting with municipal lawmakers, Councillor Bill Marra said February 27, “There has never been a desire to close branches or reduce hours, but that’s a message being perpetuated. The reality is we are asking them to do things a little differently. My hope is to put some of the nonsense behind us and move forward.”

Though the library’s primary funding comes from the city, it remains autonomous under the Ontario Public Libraries Act. The library absorbed a half-million-dollar cut in 2005, and this newest round results from ongoing municipal deficits despite a recently enacted .95% city tax increase that saved the jobs of school crossing guards.

Posted on February 29, 2008. Discuss.