Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark says a new downtown library needs to accommodate not only the needs of the city today, but also for a growing population.
A report from the Saskatoon Public Library Board recommends a new building at a cost of $154 million — $87.5 million which would have to be borrowed.
Clark said it is a conservative estimate.
“It includes everything in the entire project, which is important, and also a 25 per cent contingency and also in 2026 dollars,” Clark said.
“So what we are going to have to do at budget is to figure out within that proposal and strategy how do we move forward with the project.”
Coun. Troy Davies said at committee on Nov. 12 that he is opposed to any standalone buildings going forward, and questioned the price tag.
“I know they need a new building, but to wait an extra year for a fresh new council who has all the facts and all the capital projects being presented by our administration and has all the numbers, they make the call,” Davies said at the time.
“If we make this decision at budget now … we’re going to have close to three per cent tax increase every year for the next six years without even touching the budget.”
The Saskatoon Public Library said this is not an actual reflection on how the library levy affects the city’s overall budget.
“The library levy is calculated separately from municipal tax,” Lisa Erickson, board chair of the Saskatoon Public Library (SPL), said in an email to Global News.
The board said if the proposed 2.57 per cent increase was applied on the municipal tax, it would result in a $49 increase, which the board said is not the case.
“Our funding plan projects an average homeowner with an assessed home of $371,000 will pay approximately an extra $5 per year on the library levy in the years 2020-2026.”
In 2019, 5.83 per cent of the total property tax was allocated to the library, according to SPL.
The board said the new central library project is part of its 2020 capital budget heading to council as part of the budget debate at the end of November.
Davies said he will move a motion that that library board revise its business case for a new building.
Clark said he has heard from a number of people stating the $154 million is a large price tag. He said how to move forward with the proposal and strategy will take place during the budget debate.
“How do we move forward with the project and also make sure we are allocating a debt limit to the project that’s going to ensure we have the flexibility to do that and other things in the future?” Clark said.
“I think that will be the conversation.”
A report released in September said Frances Morrison Central Library (FMCL) has become too small to serve as a central location.
The building was designed for 50 employees and to hold under 100,000 items. There are currently 87 employees at the location with over 256,000 items.
The report said a new building of 149,000 square feet — almost double the size of the current building — is needed to replace FMCL.
Clark said that whatever is decided, it has to meet the needs of the city and the community.
“It’s been 30 years in the waiting and it should be a building that achieves the potential for a growing city and the future,” Clark said.
“And that it also is a true public gathering place that brings people in the community together.”
City council will vote on borrowing the $87.5 million needed for the $154 million project during budget talks at the end of November.