PORT HAWKESBURY: Town councillors are raising their concerns with the proposed 49 per cent increase that the town has to pay under a new library funding formula.

Council passed a motion to send a letter to the Minister of Communities, Culture and Heritage, Leo Glavine, expressing concern about the increase in library funding imposed on the town.

The increases are a result of two factors, one the funding was changed in relation to the French and equity grants, which were 100 per cent funded by the province, and will now be cost-shared by the town. The second reason was it was indicated there had been no increases since the 2010-11 fiscal year and it was necessary for them to incorporate a percentage for each year, so it resulted in a significant increase for the town.

“I think that we have a lot of unanswered questions with regard to the logic behind the increase; we understand that it’s been quite a number of successive years that there hasn’t been any increases given to libraries,” Port Hawkesbury Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton said following their regular council meeting on April 2. “So what we will do is we’ll frame up a letter [and] there will probably be questions in that letter that asks about maybe the imbalance with regard to the percentages and what logic they were using in regard to how they were going to manage that increase.”

Councillor Blaine MacQuarrie said the province “implemented the increase very unilaterally with no consultation across the province” and that with the proposed $10,353 increase from their 2015-16 total of $21,147, the town is now faced with a contribution of $31,500.

Chisholm-Beaton said she understands from looking at information provided to council that it makes them the second highest increase percentage-wise for their district. All other municipalities supporting the Eastern counties regional library saw at least a 34 per cent increase in funding with the new model. The Municipality of the District of Guysborough is subject to an increase from $28,192 to $45,700, a 62 per cent of $17,508. Inverness County was issued a 47 per cent increase going from $94,655 to $139,600, a $44,945 increase.

“Councillor [Trevor] Boudreau brought up an interesting question as to why it wasn’t a tiered-approach,” Chisholm-Beaton said. “Municipalities have a very tight budget and we all face financial pressures, so if you know you want to be at this level on the spectrum, a tiered-approach would be a little bit more forgiving in terms of municipalities being able to afford that increase.”

Boudreau said the increase is essentially trying to make up for lost time, resulting in the equivalent of a three per cent increase per year.

“A 49 per cent increase is significant and the concern around the table is what are we getting for that increase, it’s a lot of money all at one time, without any consideration for what we’re going to get for it.”

A spokeswoman for the department declined The Reporter’s request for a full interview but did say the new formula will differ from the previous model in that it moves away from a population-based approach and reflects a balance between a population-based approach and the core operating needs of the nine regional library boards.