A proposal to delay the expansion of the Hillcrest Library is purely about timing of the improvements and managing debt, says Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate.
In its draft Long-Term Plan, Council proposes delaying the expansion of the Hillcrest library by three years. Community input into the $5 million expansion would be sought prior but the renovation itself would be delayed until 2027/28.
The expansion would see the library almost doubling in size by extending into the adjacent Council-owned shops which are currently on short-term leases.
Southgate said the proposal to delay the extension gave her “no pleasure” but deferring the project would help the city keep within its debt-to-revenue limit which helps Council manage its borrowing.
“I love libraries and they are so well used. But right now we have to consider holding off on some projects to manage debt in the short-term.”
She acknowledged more pressure might go onto the Hillcrest Library once the new bridge over the Waikato River opens in 2023, but noted there were five other libraries in Hamilton plus an e-book offering.
“During deliberations in December, all Councillors made some compromises. If we hadn’t, we would have been looking at a double-digit rates rise. That was completely unacceptable to all of us so we’ve had to propose some trade-offs in order to manage our financial challenges. This proposal is one of those compromises.”
An option to expand earlier, soon after the bridge between Hillcrest and the new Peacocke community opens, was still on the table. But that would force the Council to borrow money for the project earlier, and could push rates up.
The community will be asked for feedback on the proposal before a final decision is made in June, Southgate said.
“The good news is that we have maintained the city’s library budget as part of this draft Long-Term Plan, including maintaining a budget to buy new books. We’re also on track to open a new library in Rototuna in late 2022. That will alleviate pressure on the Chartwell Library which is also very well used.”
Each year, there are around 800,000 visits to Hamilton’s six public libraries in Hillcrest, Chartwell, the central city, Dinsdale, Glenview and St Andrews. Users take advantage of books, magazines, kits, DVDs, newspapers and puzzles plus databases and learning platforms. The use of e-books is increasing with the city’s e-collection now exceeding 31,500 items.
During discussions in December, not all Councillors supported the proposed delay to the Hillcrest Library extension but the majority agreed to put it in the draft budget and seek public feedback.
Final decisions will be made once the total Long-Term Plan budget is locked down in June this year. Before then, Council will undertake a comprehensive public engagement programme on what it is proposing to spend – and when – over the next decade.
Public engagement on the Long-Term Plan will run from March 5 – April 7. More information is available at futurehamilton.co.nz.