Residents in Cecil Lake, Montney, Wonowon and surrounding areas will be asked to vote this fall whether they support paying about $2 per year on their taxes to help fund the Fort St. John public library.
Regional district directors gave first three readings Thursday to the Electoral Area B Fort St. John Public Library Financial Contribution Service Establishment Bylaw, which proposes to provide annual funding to support the library’s operating costs.
The bylaw proposes an annual contribution up to $100,000, or to a limit of $0.0281 per $1,000 of net taxable values of land and improvements in the area.
The estimated residential tax rate would be $0.011 per $1,000, applicable to improvements only, according to a May 12 administration report to the PRRD board, or about $2.14 for the average homeowner in the area based on this year's assessments.
There are about 5,379 residents and an estimated 660 library cardholders in Area B, which also includes the communities of Clayhurst, Clearview, Goodlow, Prespatou, Pink Mountain, Upper Halfway, and Upper Cache.
In materials provided to the PRRD, the library, which is operated as a nonprofit association and not by government, says it has “struggled financially for more than 30 years as the third lowest funded library out of 71 provincial libraries.”
In a subsequent April 2 letter, library association chair Michael Bourcet says an increase in funding will allow the library “to better serve Area B users with increased hours and services.”
According to the PRRD, residents in Area B have provided the library with $661,500 of funding support through provincial Fair Share monies since 2005. Over the last five years, yearly funding has increased from $45,500 to $60,500 in 2021 and 2022.
In his letter, Bourcet says a similar request has also been sent to Area C representative and PRRD chair Brad Sterling, whose jurisdiction includes Charlie Lake, Baldonnel, Grandhaven/Clairmont, and Old Fort, “in hopes of getting an increase in funding” from those areas.
In its presentation materials to the PRRD, the library says it had more than 50,000 visits in 2021 despite pandemic limitations, and says it must ask core funders, which also include the City of Fort St. John, which provides $427,000, every year for a grant to help with its operations.
And while it seeks additional funding from the province, that revenue isn’t guaranteed — “which is a precarious financial situation for us.”
“The Fort St. John and Area Public Library is one of the region’s great equalizers. We provide a safe haven and learning opportunities for the homeless, seniors, newcomers, and families,” it says.
Previous attempts to establish library funding services in 2000 and 2002 failed, according to the report.
Local government elections are scheduled for Oct. 15. There are a number of other funding referendums planned this fall for PRRD residents, including establishing grant-in-aid funding services for the Global Geopark, the Dinosaur Museum, and Hockey Canada events.
Read the PRRD report in full below:
Have a story or opinion to share? Email your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org