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Toronto Public Library Board balks at 10 per cent budget cut

Last night, in its final meeting of the year, the Toronto Public Library Board approved a cut of 5.9 per cent to its 2012 operating budget. The 2012 budget now stands at just over $164 million, though more cuts may be on the way.

Going into budget negotiations, Mayor Rob Ford required all city services to slash their operating costs by 10 per cent. The TPL board has struggled to find savings. Recently, it shot down a recommendation by chief librarian Jane Pyper to reduce hours and collections at certain branches, and last night they passed on her last-ditch proposal to end bookmobile services, as well as literacy and student outreach programming. To increase revenues, the board voted for higher auditorium and room rental fees, a new fee for materials on hold that go unclaimed, and the phasing in of four new automated sorters.

The decision comes as a surprise, reports The Globe and Mail, in part because the mayor virtually appointed the library board to implement his financial vision:

I simply can’t support a reduction in hours, said [board member and City Councillor Jaye] Robinson. I think in January you will find most of council backing this up and supporting keeping libraries open and accessible.

While a board-room packed with library staff celebrated, [board chair Councillor Paul] Ainslie didn’t hold back his disappointment. As far as I’m concerned, a majority of the board just abrogated their duties, shirked their responsibilities, he said.

I’m fully expecting the city manager to be furious, I think the mayor’s going to be furious, I think the budget committee will be furious, I’m furious.

The budget now goes before the City of Toronto budget and executive committees before approval by City Council in January. The next TPL board meeting is scheduled for Jan. 30, 2012.