Catherina Rouse, CEO of the Clarence-Rockland Public Library, presented a multi-year funding agreement to the city council to provide the library with 3.6 per cent of the city’s previous year’s tax levy for a three-year term. Currently, the library must request its budget from council every year, similar to the municipal departments, but the library is not an agency of the city and the library board is responsible for how it spends the budget.
For Rouse, entering into a multi-year agreement provides the library with financial stability allowing the staff to plan future programming and get ahead of the community’s growth. Having to advocate for the support money each year puts the library at risk of surprises come budget time.
“It would give the library consistency and we don’t have to worry about finances from one year to the next,” said Rouse. “We know exactly what we are getting.”
That consistency benefits the city as well. A multi-year agreement based on the previous year’s tax-levy means the city knows exactly how much the library’s budget will be and will not have to assess requests for more funding each year.
The 3.6 per cent requested is less than the library has requested in the past. Over the last five years the average budget represented 3.628 per cent of the city’s previous year’s tax levy. In 2022, the budget was $838,793, representing 3.604 per cent of the city’s $ 23,273,705 levy from 2021.
“I want to move away from this transactional relationship where it’s all about the money and focus on what we can do for the community,” said Rouse.
Ward 4 Councillor Don Bouchard supports the library’s proposal, noting programming from the library for families and seniors will be increasingly critical as Clarence-Rockland grows. He noted the stability offered by this funding model ensures programming can grow with the community.
“Not everyone can afford to play hockey or a gym membership and the library is one of the last places to go with free programming,” said Bouchard. ”Families are looking for activities to do with their kids without spending a lot of money.”
Over the last two years, Clarence-Rockland Library’s programming participation grew despite the pandemic. Since reopening, book loans are the highest the library has seen and more than 280 new members signed so far this year. In 2019, 8900 people participated in in-person programming. Up until the end of May this year, 4300 people have already taken part, and historically the summer months are the library’s busiest.
Though the love of reading goes a long way, Rouse believes the role of a library goes far beyond the books on the shelves.