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New budget sets firm footing for Coquitlam Public Library: former trustee

Coquitlam council OK's library budget of $6.9 million for 2023.
The City Centre branch of the Coquitlam Public Library.

The new budget for the Coquitlam Public Library (CPL) will turn the page after a few shaky years of financial woes, a past trustee said.

Coun. Dennis Marsden, who ended his term on the library board last December, thanked city managers and library staff for retooling the 2023 financial plan, which elected officials unanimously approved at Monday’s meeting (March 6); Coun. Trish Mandewo was not present for the vote.

The work was needed to "get a firm grasp on the direction of the library, the financial management of the library and ensuring we’re set up for success going forward," Marsden said while thanking his fellow councillors for making the "necessary changes" to support the independent organization that runs two library branches.

Marsden also praised his former library board trustees who didn't seek re-appointment this term and singled out chairperson Natasha Knox.

Marsden's replacement on the board, Coun. Matt Djonlic, said crunching the numbers was a "labourious task," but provides "a strong foundation in terms of us moving forward."

The pair made the comments three weeks after the CPL board fired CEO Todd Gnissios and, last year, laid off library staff out of seniority and changed shifts and hours for others.

For this year's budget, Michelle Hunt — Coquitlam’s general manager of finance, lands and police — and her team drilled down to balance CPL's books, projecting $6.9 million in grants and revenues.

This includes (in numerical order):

  • City of Coquitlam = $6.4 million
  • Province of B.C. = $272,700
  • Fees and printing = $105,000
  • Rental income = $12,000
  • Book sale = $8,000

As for big expenditures, the 2023 budget lists the following (also in numerical order):

  • Salaries = $3.9 million
  • Library materials = $546,863
  • Magazines and digital collections = $354,267
  • Computer systems contracts = $199,000
  • Building maintenance = $185,000

Governed by the BC Library Act, the library board has exclusive authority over its budget for CPL programs, services and capital assets; it is required to submit its final budget each year to council for approval, by March 1.

In January, after CPL appeared before council for department head presentations prior to budget approval, council OK'd a base grant of $6.2 million for the library that included an inflationary increase over 2022 of 5.4 per cent.

Council also greenlighted another....

  • $107,872 for salaries and benefits
  • $20,000 for operating contingencies
  • $85,000 for collections

At the CPL board meeting on Feb. 22, trustees included the city’s additional funding in its budget.

Last November, CPL came out with its 2023–26 Strategic Plan that focuses on five goals:

  • inclusivity
  • team wellbeing and culture
  • partnerships and engagement
  • Truth and Reconciliation
  • leading into the future

Last year, CPL saw 526,539 visits at both branches — an increase of 41 per cent over 2021.