By Stephen Vance, Staff
The Municipality of Meaford could find significant savings in contracted library services which allow residents of the former Township of Sydenham full access to the Owen Sound & North Grey Union Public Library (OSNGUPL), by opting out of the contract and instead fully reimbursing Sydenham residents for the non-resident fee charged by the OSNGUPL.
Staff told council on March 10 that because Owen Sound has one of the highest non-resident fees for libraries in Ontario ($160 per household), it would be a cheaper option for the municipality to opt out of the contract. By comparison, the Meaford Public Library charges $40 per household for non-resident membership.
“The current Owen Sound & North Grey Union Public Library 2014 non-resident fee per year per household is $160. If the Municipality of Meaford used a 100 percent reimbursement of the $160 non-resident per household fee to provide library services for residents residing in the former Sydenham Township at OSNGUPL, the annual cost could be significantly reduced compared to the existing contract agreement,” Meaford CAO Denyse Morrissey told council in her March 10 report.
Morrissey told council that 679 individuals from Sydenham currently hold membership cards at the OSNGUPL, though it is uncertain from the data provided by the OSNGUPL how many households those 679 individuals represent. Staff did however provide estimates to council for the potential cost savings under various scenarios.
According to Morrissey’s report, even if those 679 individuals were all from separate households, Meaford would pay $108,640 if the municipality were to fully reimburse the $160 per household non-resident fees – a savings of $8,854 per year.
However, the savings are much more significant in the more likely scenario that at least some of those 679 individual members share the same roof.
Morrissey reported to council that if those individual members were broken down into households of an average size of two people, representing 340 households, the cost of full reimbursement of the $160 per household non-resident fees would only be $54,320 – a savings of more than $63,000 per year when compared to what Meaford currently pays the OSNGUPL under contract.
The high cost of Owen Sound fees for Meaford residents has been an ongoing issue, and the municipality has previously found that opting out of contracts with Owen Sound and paying the non-resident fees saves money.
Meaford had supported and funded a Joint Recreation Partnership Agreement with the City of Owen Sound since the 1980s. The agreement provided Meaford youth with access to recreation, sports and programs offered by the City of Owen Sound and waived all non-resident surcharges. That agreement expired on December 31, 2012, leaving parents facing hefty non-resident fees until Meaford’s council implemented an alternate plan.
The policy approved by council at their February 26, 2013 meeting allowed Meaford parents to be reimbursed for 90 percent of the non-resident surcharges to a maximum of $200 per household. Owen Sound has set non-resident surcharges of $167 for ice sports, and $100 for field sports on top of the standard registration fee.
Meaford’s Director of Community Services, Dan Buttineau, told council in October that while $27,000 had originally been budgeted (based on the previous contract) for the subsidy in 2013, the municipality had paid out just $15,600 to approximately 85 families by mid-October.
Council was told that there are two options available to the municipality if they desired to abandon the current contract with the OSNGUPL.
“The contract agreement, Schedule A, provides that Meaford’s rights and obligations are governed by the contract. The process by which Meaford could withdraw from the shared library arrangement is contemplated in the documents. The contract may be terminated by withdrawal of either party or participating Municipalities with one year’s notice. The contract also as per Meaford’s Schedule A also provides that the non-payment of Meaford’s share of financial support to OSNGUPL constitutes notice of withdrawal by Meaford, triggering termination of the contract and providing that Meaford is responsible for its financial share for a period of 60 days from the date of withdrawal,” noted Morrissey in her report.
An early exit from a contract would not be a new tactic by Meaford’s council who late last year directed municipal staff to terminate a contract for visitor information services with the Chamber of Commerce without cause. A 90 day termination clause in the contract was exercised, and the contract which was to run until the end of 2014 will end this spring. The municipality will be responsible for visitor information services going forward.
No decisions were made by council on the contracted library services; at this stage the report was received by council for information purposes only.