Effects of the Cost Sharing Agreement by the Numbers: Library Services

In 1983, the former Township of Ramsay voted not to increase the library grant it paid to both Almonte and Carleton Place. “In past years, the total amount has been divided up ‘two-thirds to Almonte, one-third to Carleton Place,'” according to John Souter, interviewed for the May 11, 1983 story by Susan Fisher of the Almonte Gazette. Ramsay paid $7,350 for both libraries at that time.

The amount of $7,350 is equal to $17,154.17 today, according to the Bank of Canada’s Inflation Calculator. So how did we get from $7,350 for both the Almonte and Carleton Place libraries to Mississippi Mills being asked for $61,775 for just the Carleton Place Library in 2021? What happened? The Cost Sharing Agreement in 1987 happened, also known as the “Howard Allan Agreement.” Howard Allan was/is an auditor for most of the local municipalities and also wrote the report on amalgamation promoting the cost savings that helped persuade Ramsay, Almonte and Pakenham to merge: “Almonte-Ramsay-Pakenham Best Option, Consultant”, Almonte Gazette January 15, 1997.

Under the current cost-sharing agreement, Mississippi Mills pays Carleton Place to allow Mississippi Mills and Beckwith residents to use their library at no cost. You can find my table of amounts paid since 2012 here.

Carleton Place recently shared with Mississippi Mills some of the user data for their public library:

2020 Carleton Place User Statistics

If we assume that the last two years were 2018 ($51,032.50) and 2019 ($57,554.50), then the total amount paid to Carleton Place for the 635 Mississippi Mills residents reported was $108,587.

The 2016 Census data for the two census dissemination areas around Carleton Place showed a population of 1,419. But let’s say that the population in 2020 has increased to 1,500. Dividing our recent payments for every person, adult or child, user or not, comes out to about $40. However, taking the 635 reported unique library users over two years works out to $90 if there were that many users in one year. If you take the two years of payments ($108,587) divided by the two years of users (635), we paid about $171 per user.

This is not what is charged CPPL users. This is what Mississippi Mills – all taxpayers – pay on their behalf, including those in Almonte and Pakenham. The calculation of the property assessments does not include any properties north of Wolf Grove or March Roads; but the payment of the calculation is on every ratepayers’ tax bill. Carleton Place’s decisions on expenditures also figure into the calculation. Ours do not.

So what does Carleton Place charge non-residents (residents of Ottawa, Carp, Perth, Ashton)? They have to pay more, right? And always have? Sorry, no:

Source: Carleton Place Public Library October 6 2020

A regrettable effect of this is that residents of both towns could use all libraries at no additional cost to any one community under a true reciprocal sharing agreement. We have one with Perth and Lanark. If you have a Mississippi Mills card, you can access their collections without paying a non-resident fee. You see, Carleton Place does charge a non-resident library fee of about $90 per user; users just don’t see us pay for it through everyone’s taxes.

There are a number of governance issues with funding a third library facility outside our own municipality when we already authorized a Board to run two facilities for residents; the Library Board will address this at the October 20 Council meeting. But what it means in real-life is that we have sent over $400,000 to Carleton Place for their library since 2012. Imagine if that money was used for our own facilities and staff. Maybe directing $60,000 to our own library reserves and expenses each year would pay off the $150,000 debt remaining on the Pakenham Library debt a bit quicker?

The truth is libraries are raucous clubhouses for free speech, controversy and community.

– Paula Poundstone

Thank you to the Mississippi Mills Public Library for allowing councillors, constituents and controversy to meet and the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum for hosting the Almonte Gazette archives.