November 26, 2003
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
REGINA – Faced with urgent financial challenges created by a pension shortfall and declining tax revenues, Sandy Cameron, Director, Regina Public Library, today announced major changes in the operation of the Library.
“The Library has faced severe financial pressures over the past several years,” Cameron stated. “Even with a commitment to cost control and severely curtailed spending on facilities, the Library has very little flexibility to handle the current situation.” He related how the Library’s financial challenges really began with the loss of $800,000 of annual business tax revenue in the 1990’s – revenue that had been expected to be replaced by Provincial Government grants-in-lieu. The expectation that the Regina Public Library would keep property tax increases at about the level of inflation created further financial pressure. “We have had to cut back dramatically on major maintenance, capital improvements and even general upkeep for the last several years,” said Cameron. “This has left us with facilities that are in need of major improvements in the near future.”
Cameron noted that the Board had been working to develop a three to five year plan to deal with the tight financial situation and the need for facility improvements. “The immediate challenges created by the pension shortfall and by the decrease in tax revenue due to the appeal process (estimated to be between $150,000 and $400,000 in 2003), placed us in a position where we needed to act quickly,” Cameron stated.
“The Regina Public Library Board felt there was no option but to immediately take action to keep the operation financially viable,” Cameron stated. “We have, with great sadness and reluctance, announced major changes to our system.”
Announced today were the closure of three Library Branches – Connaught, Prince of Wales, and Glen Elm. Also announced were the closure of the Dunlop Art Gallery, and a restructuring of the role of the Prairie History Room (both the Dunlop Art Gallery and the Prairie History Room are located at the Central Library).
“The most difficult part of these changes is that there will be job losses for approximately 27 full and part-time employees of the Regina Public Library,” Cameron said. “All of us regret the loss of these staff members who have served our clients so well over the years.”
None of the closures or job losses will occur until at least March 1, 2004. Some of the changes will take until mid-year to complete.
For further information contact:
Crystal Beach Mauro
Backgrounder - Regina Public Library
1. Loss of approximately $800,000 of Business Tax Revenue in the 1990’s
2. Pressure to keep RPL’s tax increases at zero or close to the rate of inflation for the last five years
3. Requirement to inject an estimated $300,000 per year for the next five years to correct a shortfall identified in the pension plan
4. Reduction in tax revenue, which will create an ongoing revenue reduction for RPL. This reduction is estimated to be between $150,000 and $400,000 for 2003
5. Contract negotiations with the union representing RPL’s employees will begin in the new year
6. Utility rate increases are expected to be above the rate of inflation
Facilities issues impacting on today’s decision:
1. Central Library
The Central Library building is about 40 years old and retains most of the systems and equipment that were originally installed. While an active maintenance program is carried out on building systems and equipment – it is clear that it is past the point where replacement of equipment and upgrading of the building should have occurred.
In particular, the heating and air conditioning system needs to be replaced. The building needs to be brought up to reasonable energy efficiency standards. Changes need to be considered in the escalators and other ancillary systems. Accessibility needs to be improved. Basic painting and upkeep is required throughout the building.
2. Small Branches
a) Albert is the oldest Branch. It faces some challenges in its building because of its age, including some foundation issues.
b) Prince of Wales is the smallest Branch. It has a serious foundation problem as well as a number of other challenges involving the small size and overall condition of the building.
c) Connaught is another long time Branch. Recently, emergency foundation repairs were made at Connaught. A permanent repair of the foundation is expected to cost several hundred thousand dollars.
3. Large Branches
a) Glen Elm is a full service Branch located in the east end of the city. There are serious problems with this building. There are also accessibility problems that can only be solved with the installation of an elevator. The condition of the carpeting is a major issue at Glen Elm.
b) Sherwood Village is a full service Branch located in the northwest part of the city. Sherwood’s issues center on the efficiency of the space and the need for significant layout changes. Sherwood is also in need of both new carpeting and painting.
c) Regent Place is a full service Branch located in the north. Generally, Regent Place is in better condition than many of our Branches.
d) George Bothwell is a full service Branch located in the Southland Mall. It is a fairly new Branch with relatively few challenges.
e) Sunrise is a full service Branch located in the Southeast. This location is fairly new as well.