SASKATOON -- A city of Saskatoon report on a proposed new central library outlines several benefits and risks when it comes to the financing, the environment and the overall impact of its size and scale.

City council asked administration to report back on several aspects of the library proposal including the business case, impact on the city’s debt level, the environment, reconciliation, property tax impact and construction estimates. Council also wanted to know the inventory, demand and availability of open spaces in the city in determining what’s needed.

The cost for a new downtown library is estimated to be around $153 million, with $87.5 million in borrowing needed. In addition to borrowing, funding sources would include Saskatoon Public Library (SPL) reserve funds and donations.

City administration says borrowing money for the central library alone would not exceed the city’s approved debt limit of $558 million.

“As at Dec. 31, 2018, the city’s actual debt was $354 million. The current debt projection peaks at approximately $439 million in 2025, based on several assumptions,” the report reads.

However, it says the current debt projection doesn’t include borrowing for other future projects like a downtown arena, water treatment plant or relocation of the city yards.

“The inclusion of these projects combined with the proposed central library would extend the city over the current debt limit,” the report says.

 The report also gives insight into the amount of space inside the new library compared to what’s available around the city, and what’s needed.

The functional plan for a new library includes indoor and outdoor green spaces, a children’s play area, a space for ceremonies, public meetings, a café operated by a tenant, space for local history with storage for irreplaceable materials and a mix of quiet and animated areas for use by both groups and individuals.

Administration says among city owned or operated facilities, the total capacity for bookable spaces at these facilities is estimated to accommodate 52,984 people. It adds there are an additional 135 facilities including churches, schools, restaurants and clubs with private booking spaces.

“Considering all factors, at this time, the administration has no fact-based or anecdotal evidence to support the need for construction of significant additional general-use community space in the downtown. As such, the administration believes that the new central library design should minimize general-use community space,” it says.

Environmental implications are also addressed.

The proposed new library would produce more greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than the existing downtown library. But the new library would have less emissions per square foot.

In 2017, administration says the existing library emitted 1,000 tonnes of CO2e. Administration estimates the new library built to LEED gold standards would emit 1,400 tonnes of CO2e per year. But, per square foot, the new library would emit 0.0095 tonnes of CO2e while the existing one produces 0.012.

The report also analyzed the projected construction costs and the property tax impact.

The funding plan for the new library has an annual operating phased-in increase of $640,000 in 2020 to 2022; $650,000 in 2023 to 2024; and $715,000 in 2025.

“This funding will be used to finance the project until borrowing happens and then will be used towards debt repayment. The 2020 increase of $640,000 in the budget represents a 2.57% increase to the library portion of property taxes, equivalent to $4.95 per household per year (average assessed value),” the report reads.

Construction costs were also reviewed with administration saying the construction costs identified in the business case put forward by SPL appear reasonable in consideration of the building type, size and limited program definition identified in the business case.

The report is on the agenda for the next Governance and Priorities Committee meeting on Tuesday at City Hall.