The City of Moose Jaw will reduce its funding to third-party groups by $159,100 this year to save money during the pandemic, with the public library seeing the biggest reduction.
During its May 11 regular meeting, city council discussed ways to reduce the 2020 tax increase in its operating budget to zero per cent from 2.3 per cent, as a way to alleviate financial pressures that residents and businesses have faced during the coronavirus pandemic. Reducing funding given to third-party groups was one area city council discussed.
Council eventually reached a zero-per-cent tax increase for 2020 — by eliminating or deferring $703,636 in spending — after 90 minutes of discussion.
City administration has spoken with the municipality's third-party groups that it funds and has estimated that council could reduce funding to these groups by $159,100 due to building closures and staff layoffs, a report to council explained.
These numbers indicate how much funding each group receives and how much in reductions each faces:
- Moose Jaw Public Library: $1.2 million / $150,000
- Moose Jaw Museum & Art Gallery: $137,496 / $3,200
- Moose Jaw Cultural Centre: $160,679 / $3,700
- Wakamow Valley Authority: $329,612 / $0
- Tourism Moose Jaw/Canada Day: $95,509 / $2,200
- Saskatchewan Festival of Words: $7,867 / $0
- Burrowing owls: $6,428 / $0
- Cosmo Senior Centre: $15,000 / $0
- Moose Jaw and District Seniors: $35,000 / $0
Council voted unanimously to reduce third-party funding by $159,100 for the remainder of the fiscal year.
Moose Jaw Public Library
Sarah Simison, library board chair, attend the meeting by video link and told council that while the library building is closed, services continue at a steady pace. Library employees have focused on programming, digital collections, and general, technical, and administrative support during the past two months.
The general, technical and administrative support occurs via a virtual help desk that staff operate remotely. The help desk answers questions, offers support and training to use the digital collection, and administers library cards. Through this latter activity, people can continue to receive help and access library resources, ask archival questions and even receive a new library card.
The library has also offered live programs for storytime, a COVID-19 conversation group, book clubs, recordings of Saturday morning craft clubs, Dungeons and Dragons activities, and youth programming using a digital platform called Discord.
“The digital library collection continues to be available, (while) there has been an increase in usage of Libby — or Library2Go — Kanopy, Tumble Books and Hoopla,” Simison said. “The library proudly offers these resources and connections to the community during this time.”
While this service is robust, it is not at the same level as if the building was open, she continued. The library does not need more money for operations, while it does not expect to need all of the estimated funds for 2020. However, the proposed reductions are based on the library being physically closed for four months, while service levels could not be maintained if council made similar cuts in the future.
Moose Jaw Public Library does not hold reserves for operational expenses and attempts to be good stewards of the public’s money, Simison said. It attempts to provide an essential role to bring people together during this time and attempts to provide efficient and effective services and programs.
“Our community will certainly face challenges going forward and we believe our library can share a role in supporting the well-being and recovery ahead,” she added.
Gwen Fisher, head librarian, also participating online, added that the funding reduction is manageable this year as long as the library reopens by Aug. 31. It might be possible to have curbside pickup of books, but that’s difficult to predict.
The next regular council meeting is Monday, May 25.