Residents who utilize recreational facilities will be seeing an increase over the next five years, but for seniors, a new bylaw marks a 25 per cent decrease in admission rates.
Last Monday night, Prince Rupert city council gave first, second and third readings to the Recreation Fees and Charges Bylaw No. 3383, 2015.
The bylaw introduces a five per cent increase in admissions and in a fees-related revenue structure each year, starting on July 1, 2016 to December 31, 2020, adding to a 25 per cent increase over five years.
A commercial increase is also proposed for 20 per cent more than the non-profit or public rate.
The bylaw comes after a 10 per cent increase in fees occurred in 2015 after no increase occurred from 2010 to 2014.
“Across the recreation industry, it is quite common to experience a three-to-five per cent increase in fees every year. And so since [before 2015] we didn’t touch the rates since 2010, it was a five-year period where we increased by 10 per cent. The math is right in line with how the industry would work,” City of Prince Rupert recreation director Willa Thorpe told council in her presentation Monday night.
Through the bylaw, a single user fee is being adopted to be applied across the use of all facilities and would reduce seniors’ rates by 25 per cent.
Fifty free admissions per year will be provided for members of low-income families who don’t meet a federally set income threshold. This is part of the City’s ‘Recreation Access Program’. An additional discount of up to $300 per year will also apply to low-income family members in registered courses.
Admission rates for seniors, youth and post-secondary students would be amalgamated into one rate category.
“If we maintain the same fees that we’re currently charging in recreation, by the year 2020 we will be 27 – 42 per cent lower than the average community of similar geography, population and industry such as Rupert,” Thorpe outlined.
Single drop-in admissions for all facilities will be broken into four rate categories: child, youth/senior/post-secondary, adult and family (max. 6 members).
Currently, the recreation department’s 2015 budget shows $844,000 in revenue, while it possesses $3.4 million in operating expenses.
“This equates to a subsidization of $2.556 million [by Prince Rupert taxpayers,” said the City’s chief financial officer Corinne Bomben.
The taxpayers’ subsidization covers 75 per cent of operating expenses, while recreation’s revenues currently cover 25 per cent.
“The challenge we have obviously is balancing how much we’re raising taxes to increase services versus balancing it with a fee structure that’s fair for everybody,” said Mayor Lee Brain.
Thorpe added that an hourly timeslot fee is being developed which gains the user access to all facilities in that timeframe, as well as a daily pass which allows users to have an ‘in and out’ ability with the centres, such as attending in the morning before work as well as in the evening.
New software is also being implemented in early 2016 that tracks the demographics of the recreation facilities’ users as well as time of day usage, day of the week usage and it will also give users the ability to register for programs or courses online.
As well, a capital reserve fund is being developed, one which will set aside five per cent of all fees and admission revenues each year to be allocated for future facility repair and expansion. Some projects needing attention as outlined by Thorpe include leaking problems in the Earl Mah Aquatic Centre and a gymnasium floor that needs to be sanded down in the civic centre.
Councillor Barry Cunningham requested that recreation staff, city firefighters and RCMP user groups be included in the fees increase bylaw, as they were previously left out of the hikes. His motion passed to that effect.
Councillor Gurvinder Randhawa voiced his concern that with the number of job losses in the community, will a financial break be offered to youth who choose to use the facilities?
Thorpe responded that the department has maintained the casual gym rate for children who would like to play after school in the gymnasium and that the time and space has been blocked off specifically for youth and that rate has been carved out and not lumped with other fee increases.
Coun. Randhawa and Coun. Blair Mirau also requested a solid marketing presence to advertise the new rates and programs by the recreation department and the City.