File photo Funding for rural libraries like Keremeos is top of mind for mayor Manfred Bauer. Bauer plans to speak to the minister responsible for libraries at UBCM this fall.

Rural library funding still priority for Keremeos mayor

Local politicians are hoping a change of leadership in the province might mean more funds for local libraries.

Keremeos mayor Manfred Bauer said he along with fellow area politicians plan to lobby the new government for more funding for rural libraries at the upcoming Union of British Columbia Municipalities in September.

“We are going to UBCM and we’ll try to get a meeting with the new minister of eduction and of course make our case for rural library funding again,” he said. “Who knows whether under the NDP there will be a better response or a faster response? I guess we’ll find out.”

Bauer along with other politicians in the Similkameen were part of similar discussions about rural library funding while the Liberals were in power.

No movement had been made to change the province’s portion of the funding formula prior to the election last May.

Although the Keremeos library continues to be open five days a week there were staffing cuts made earlier this year because of a budget shortfall.

The shortfall can be traced back to an operations audit done for all the libraries in the Okanagan Regional Library board several years ago.

The audit showed that some of the board’s smaller libraries including Keremeos were being subsidized by ratepayers in larger centres.

After identifying the shortfall the ORL provided the village and Areas B and G at least two funding options that would mean the library remained opened five days a week.

Bauer spearheaded a charge to develop a tax requisition bylaw to ensure the library would be open the same number of days and same number of hours.

Elef Christensen, director for Area G opposed the idea but agreed to use contingency funding to keep the library open with decreased service levels for 2017.

The village of Keremeos, Areas B and G combined provided about $16,000 of taxpayer money to help offset the deficiency in the library’s budget.

It’s unclear whether or not the library will receive funding from Areas B, G, and Keremeos in 2018. If funding is not topped up from some area the library will be closed at least one additional day a week.