Town concerned over potential library budget cuts

Members of the Town of Stettler's council raised concerns at its Tuesday, Nov. 1 meeting about the news coming from the Stettler...

Members of the Town of Stettler’s council raised concerns at its Tuesday, Nov. 1 meeting about the news coming from the Stettler Library regarding its 2017 budget.

It’s not the first library budget to come across councillors’ desks, with the first being sent by Stettler’s parent library, Parkland Regional Library. That budget was passed, but Stettler’s has yet to come before council.

Board member and town councillor Darcy Bachman challenged the Stettler board to find increased savings at the meeting, something he said he was proud the board had been able to do.

According to Bachman, who reported on the past library board meeting to council, one of the ways the board was able to find savings was due to the departure of past manager Mary Zazelenchuk and the hiring of replacement Matt Barabash.

The discussion, which wasn’t formally on the agenda, was brought up when councillors discussed the various meetings they had attended since the last time they had reported to council. Bachman said the budget will be presented once it has been formally adopted by Stettler Library’s board.

In fact, beyond the wage cost decrease, the board was also able to find a way to lower costs further and are now discussing some projects to increase the number of people coming to the library – such as free memberships.

Memberships were $5 for children, $10 for adults and $20 for families, and are $30 for non-residents. Those fees help offset the costs of wages, programs, equipment and loan content such as books and DVDs. Subtracting membership costs from the budget will cost the library several thousand a year, money the rest of council was concerned the library couldn’t afford to do away with.

“Where’s the major swing in price (coming from)?” Mayor Dick Richards asked.

He also agreed with Councillor Al Campbell that once the cost of library cards is taken away, it won’t be easy to reinstate.

Though Bachman said he understood council’s caution and concern, he said he remained proud of the board for looking at ways to increase memberships and decrease costs.

As the library’s budget wasn’t formally on the agenda, there were no decisions to be made on the matter at council, though everyone said they were looking forward to seeing the budget and how the library came up with their savings.

Barabash, when reached for comment, said that it was too early for him to make a statement on the budget.

“It’s still early,” he said. “We’re still hashing things out.”