Except for requests from the Sechelt and Gibsons libraries, all of the Sunshine Coast Regional District’s (SCRD) community partners' funding requests were sent as presented to the next round of the local government’s 2023 budget discussions. At a Jan. 23 finance committee meeting, just over a million dollars in contributions to groups that provide community services were recommended to come out of this year’s regional property taxation.
Staff costs increase for Sechelt Library
The Sechelt Public Library asked to adjust the funding provided for in its five-year service agreement with the SCRD, the District of Sechelt and the shíshálh Nation government district. This year, an increase of $54,153 to the library’s baseline budget was requested which would also impact local government funding levels in future years. In a presentation at the meeting, the Library Board chair, Pat Harvey, stated that the increase was requested after months of work by staff and the board revealed that the “current model of funding would not be able to meet our needs."
Library director Leianne Emery outlined that the need for additional money was “related mainly to staff wages and benefits." The five-year local government service and funding agreement became effective in 2020. She explained that in 2022 a new contract for unionized staff was negotiated. That brought staff compensation in line with similar organizations but created significantly higher costs than provided for in the service agreement.
The committee recommended the request be included in the budget but be held at agreed-to levels. In 2023, that includes $305,101 in SCRD funding to cover services provided to Pender Harbour, Halfmoon Bay and Roberts Creek area residents.
Gibsons library request 'hard to swallow'
Gibsons and District Public Library board chair Janet Hodgkinson began her presentation to the committee noting that SCRD staff and the library had taken different approaches in calculating how the library’s funding request had increased between this year and last. She stated that in 2022 library funding had been originally approved by the SCRD at $708,366. When one-time COVID-19 restart funding of $19,700 was offered by the Town of Gibsons, it was accepted and the SCRD’s funding was reduced by that amount. Their 2023 funding request to the SCRD is for $778,519, an increase of $61,193 or 7.5 per cent over the originally approved 2022 amount.
In the staff report on the meeting agenda, the 2022 SCRD contribution was listed at $688,666, the amount lowered by Gibsons’ contribution and showed the increase between the two years at 13 per cent.
The committee did not recommend a 2023 operating grant level for the Gibsons and Area Public Library. Gibsons area director Silas White stated that the year-over-year budget adjustment was “impossible to swallow” for his area. Given the other pressures related to costs increases elsewhere in the budget, a recommendation requesting the library provide a revised proposal with an increase in the range of six per cent to cover inflation was made.
Twenty groups’ requests endorsed
Other partner group’s 2023 proposals moved on the second round of budget discussions unchanged. Those included: Roberts Creek Community Library - $16,500, Pender Harbour Reading Centre - $3,689, Pender Harbour Health Centre - $165,040, Sechelt Archives - $23,750, Sunshine Coast Museum and Archives – $96,400, Skookumchuck Museum/Egmont Heritage Centre - $42,000, Sunshine Coast Community Services Society (Youth Outreach program) - $52,628, Halfmoon Bay/Chatelech Community School Association - $12,700, Sechelt Community Schools Society - $52,000, Pender Harbour Community School Society - $56,000, Roberts Creek Community School Society - $10,000, Gibsons Area Community Schools - $10,000, Sunshine Coast Tourism - $20,000, Pender Harbour Chamber of Commerce - $28,000, Coast Cultural Alliance - $8,000, Gibsons and District Chamber of Commerce - $9,000, Sunshine Coast Search and Rescue Association - $19,000, Sunshine Coast Marine Search and Rescue Station 12 (Halfmoon Bay), Station 61 (Pender Harbour) and Station 14 (Gibsons) - $5,100 each.
The committee has the option to reconsider any of the allocations during second round budget debate in February. Adoption of the committee-proposed budget also requires board consideration, which is currently set for March 23.