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Toronto Public Library's budget outlook could mean future battles

Inflation has outpaced the Library budget by almost six per cent since 2010.

Don Mills Library

Torstar News Service

Don Mills Library

Toronto Public Library's early budget outlook could mean tough choices for the popular institution.

In a report to be considered by the Toronto Public Library board Monday evening, the preliminary budget outlook calls for a 3.2 per cent revenue increase -- $5.73 million -- to maintain current service levels.

That number is significantly greater than city council's approved target of no increases for all city divisions, agencies, boards and commissions, which could set up further battles about service cuts and efficiencies as the budget process unfolds.

While the library's proposed budget won't be submitted to city council until September 25, the preliminary outlook illustrates challenges to achieve council's request. Library workers will receive a contractually agreed-upon cost of living wage increase in 2018 that equals a 1.4 per cent budget increase. TPL will also have to figure out how to permanently fund some programs rather than drawing on reserves.

Councillor and library board member Sarah Doucette doesn't like where this leads.

"It has been a cut every single year," she told Metro, adding that she's not a believer in flatlining budgets for all divisions.

Over the past seven years, the staff count at the TPL has been reduced by 5.7 per cent, according to budget documents. Over the same time period, inflation outpaced the library budget by almost six per cent.

Doucette called on Mayor John Tory to consider the bigger picture for the forthcoming budget.

"Keep your property tax at a reasonable rate to fund what we need," she said in a critique of the mayor's unwillingness to raise property tax revenue more than inflation.

Mayoral spokesperson Keerthana Kamalavasan told Metro the preliminary outlook is just the first step, and the library will work towards efficiencies as the process unfolds.

"Finalizing the City’s budget is months away; the budget direction is the beginning of the process to set a target for City divisions and agencies," she said in an email.

The mayor's office, which supported the council-approved zero per cent target, appears unwilling to back away from the goal at this point in time.

"Just like Toronto families review their budgets every year and look for ways to save money, the Mayor believes City Hall must do the same," Kamalavasan added.

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