User-fee increases up for debate at city hall

Tyler
Tyler Clarke
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

Coun. Ted Zurakowski cautions council at Monday’s executive committee meeting that increasing user fees more drastically than usual might result in a drop in use. 

City administration are setting their sights on a 50 per cent user fee cost recovery for civic facilities, leaving the city’s elected officials asking; Is it enough?

 

“It’s not a new conversation,” Coun. Ted Zurakowski said capping off a lengthy discussion at Monday’s executive committee meeting.

“We’ve gone through this many times, especially when it comes to concessions and the operations of them. “

With Monday’s meeting set aside to prepare for the next city council meeting, nothing was set in stone this week, although council is prepared for what Zurakowski said will be a “lively debate,” on Feb. 24.

“We’ve been creeping up our rates, now, for the last several years,” he summarized.

“We have a responsibility to make sure that it’s sustainable, and we’ll probably continue to increase the rates and the fees over the next few years, but I think creeping them up is probably more comfortable approach than going to a 45 to a 60 per cent (cost recovery ratio with user fees).”

As it’s currently proposed, acting community services director Jody Boulet recommends a two per cent increase to rates and fees.

A step up in the report provided to council is that utilities, such as water and sewer, are now being factored into the cost of operating civic facilities, Coun. Lee Atkinson noted -- a component he’s been advocating for.

However he questions the increase of two per cent increase, which is below the consumer price index of 2.3 per cent and does not begin to make up the cost of utilities.

Their goal was 50 per cent cost recovery, overall, Boulet said, noting that a two per cent user fee increase is projected to achieve that.

“At the end of the day, I’m user-pay,” Mayor Greg Dionne countered. “But I understand that we have to do some things for our kids and our youth, but for more we should be recovering 60 per cent -- not 50.

We’ve been creeping up our rates, now, for the last several years ... We have a responsibility to make sure that it’s sustainable, and we’ll probably continue to increase the rates and the fees over the next few years, but I think creeping them up is probably more comfortable approach than going to a 45 to a 60 per cent (cost recovery ratio with user fees) Coun. Ted Zurakowski

“Whenever you subsidize any facility, the goal of your operation should be to reduce the subsidy -- that should be the goal of every department.

“I’m just glad to see that it’s at a 50 per cent, and to go a little higher I think would be a little bit of a mistake,” Coun. Charlene Miller countered.

Pulling concessions aside, Dionne said that some civic-operated concessions are running at a deficit -- something a private entrepreneur would not approve.

City manager Jim Toye said that administration is ready to prepare a report on the implications of any percentage increase or user fee cost-recovery ratio the city’s elected officials would like to see.

A final decision of council is expected before April, by which time city council is expected to finalize the city’s 2014 budget.

In Boulet’s proposed 2014 budget, civic facilities such as the Art Houser Centre, Kinsmen and Steuart arenas, Alfred Jenkins Field House and other such facilities are projected to cost $4,672,950.

The ratio at which facilities recover costs through user fees vary, from 100 per cent with the Cooke Municipal Golf Course, to 21 per cent for the Margo Fournier Centre.

Should council approve Boulet’s recommendation that 50 per cent of the city’s overall facilities’ cost be covered by user fees, at a two per cent increase over last year’s rates, this year’s tax burden would be $2,356,660.

City council will next debate this item during their net city council meeting, set for Monday, Feb. 24, at 5 p.m. 

Organizations: Art Houser Centre, Alfred Jenkins Field House, Margo Fournier Centre

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page

Comments

Comments