The main staircase of the Hamilton Public Library Central Branch Credit: Joey Coleman / The Public Record

Few municipal services provide the budget transparency of the Hamilton Public Library, and the Library’s mid-year fiscal update gives us a picture of COVID impacts upon government services.
Overall, the Library expects a end of the year surplus of $879,000. With the reopening of branches, this is likely to be a one-time “surplus” due to increased cleaning and other COVID related costs.
The surplus is primarily driven by position vacancies, operational cost decreases due to COVID closures and reduced hours of operation, and secondments of staff who are ultimately being paid by the Province for work in the Hamilton public health unit COVID response.
While there is an overall surplus, the Library is experiencing some many increased costs and decreases in revenue.
Losses of revenue include:

  • $250,000 from ending fines at the HPL. (There is a decrease of $24,000 in costs related to fee collections)
  • $115,000 lost printing and copying revenue.

Increased costs include:

  • $240,000 increase for extra cleaning measures.
  • $107,430 increase in collection purchases to meet demand for online resources. (physical purchasing is down due to many reasons)
  • $45,000 for PPE and cleaning supplies.
  • $10,000 for new hand sanitizing stations and physical distancing signage.
  • $20,000 for sneeze guards.
  • $10,000 for paper bags for curbside pickup service.

Savings include:

  • $200,000 in staff secondments. 18 HPL staff were seconded during COVID.
  • Approximately $50,000 in decrease bookmobile costs due to suspension of service.
  • $500,000 due to lay-off of part-time library pages.
  • $100,000 due to delay in opening the new Parkdale branch.
  • $900,000 due to vacancies, cancelled training, and cancelled travel. (The HPL is maintaining vacancies due to “the lack of clarity around the 2021 operating budget and the need to pay for COVID-19 related expenses”
  • $57,000 in decrease security guard costs due to branch closures and reduced hours.

Hamilton City Hall denied requests from The Public Record for public financial ledger information during the summer.

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First published: September 19, 2020
Last edited: September 19, 2020
Author: Joey Coleman
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