Library closure stays in budget despite plea
THE CLOSURE of Goonellabah Library as part of cuts proposed in the Lismore City Council 2013-14 budget continues to attract criticism from both a minority of councillors and concerned citizens.
The proposed budget, which also includes a host of other cuts totalling more than $1 million, was last night narrowly voted (6-5) by councillors to go on public display for 28 days.
Council is expecting to save $84,000 from the library closure, although there will be no staffing cuts - staff will instead be relocated to the CBD library.
Goonellabah resident and library patron Leslie Berogwia delivered an impassioned plea to the council earlier in the meeting to keep the library open, citing Goonellabah's fast growing population and the difficulties in accessing affordable public transport to the Lismore City Library.
Quoting Council's own documents, Ms Berogwia said Goonellabah had a concentration of residents disadvantaged by age, health, and education, and the service in fact needed expansion, not closure.
"It may be only 5km from the CBD library, but... a half day's trip to the CBD with a heavy bag of books not to mention a wheelie walker or children is not a viable option," Ms Berogwia said.
"The provision of computer access is extremely important for people who cannot afford it... the library's PC usage is growing rapidly reflecting this need and the low income demographics (of the area)," Ms Berogwia said.
Janine Wilson from the Community Action Network said library services should be a core council priority only just behind its traditional focus on roads, rates, and rubbish.
The budget cuts also include closing the Lismore City Library on Sundays, axing stormwater planned South Lismore stormwater infrastructure, as well as major cuts to off-field mowing and gardening in Lismore's parks.
A rally of support for keeping the library open came from councillors Gianpiero Battista, Graham Meineke, Greg Bennett and Neil Marks, but ultimately the alternative cuts moved in an amendment by Cr Bennett to offset the library closure proved unacceptable when put to a vote.
Those cuts would have involved the axing of three council staff positions and their respective budgets, including council's climate change officer, business facilitator, and ecologist.
An amended proposal by Cr Meineke to cut the Section 356 budget, which provides funding to a range of community groups and events, was also voted down.
In supporting the current budget to put on public display, councillor Simon Clough said the council had made a "comprehensive and thorough" assessment and "every area of the community unfortunately will feel some pain".
But the closure of Goonellabah could just be the tip of the iceberg.
In moving to "zero-based budgeting" in 2014, part of which involves putting money aside to fund asset renewal, the council is expected to face even more extensive cuts to services.
Lismore City Council - Proposed Budget 2013-2014
TOTAL CUTS - $1.2 million
- CBD Office Closure - $62,500
- Goonellabah Branch Library Closure - $84,500
- Lismore Library Closes early on Fridays and closes all day Sundays - $36,000
- Reduced frequency of mowing off-field parks - $70,000
- Reductions in mowing off-fields and gardening - $170,000
- Reduction in stormwater construction - $140,000
- Eliminate kerb and gutter construction - $41,400
- Road resealing and rehab - $700,000
- CBD improvements - $75,000
- Communication and engagement $75,000
- Hospital precinct planning - $50,000
*CORRECTION: A previous version of this story reported the three council positions to be axed had six-figure salaries attached to them. We have since been told by the council the positions in question have salaries that high. The story has been updated to correct the error.