Monday, September 12, 2016

Council approves new user fee formula for Civic Centre ice time

The City's Recreation Director
Willa Thorpe was at a Special Session
of Council last week, providing details
on the latest revision to the fees schedule
Despite being sent back to the Recreation Commission for a review, the topic of a change in the user fee formula in place for Civic Centre ice rental still required a bit more discussion for City Council members at a Special Council session held last Thursday afternoon.

The meeting which had only the Recreation Centre fees issue as its main agenda item required twenty minutes of further discussion before Council members voted to accept the revised recommendation from the Recreation Department.

Though as the short session moved forward, Councillor Gurvinder Randhawa remained unconvinced of the merits of the plan and voted against the increases of ten percent that had been recommended.

Mayor Brain opened the evening's proceedings by noting some of the public commentary that Council had heard in the past about the issue of Ice Fees at the Civic Centre, which had been referred back to the Recreation Committee for further study,

See our blog item from early this month for more background on those concerns.

As part of the Special Session of Thursday, Willa Thorpe the City's Recreation Director provided some background on the revised fees and other aspects of that review, noting that they had come to consensus for a 10 percent increase for the Prime time portions of the ice schedule, along with some subtle changes to how the Civic Centre views "prime time".

The new formula will assess ice fees between Prime and Non prime with a multiplier of 1.1 for the 2016-17 season, with Prime increases of 10 percent each year through until August of 2021.

She noted that the suggested change would result in a reduction of approximately 24,000 ice rental revenue for 2016. That impact on the department budget projections was noted as something that the Recreation Department could absorb for this year.

The follow up discussion found Councillor Randhawa still in opposition to the increases being recommended for the Prime Time allocation of ice time, expressing once again his desire to see only a five percent increase put in place, calling attention to some of the financial challenges that some residents face with the city's still struggling economy.

The Mayor brought the City's Chief Financial Officer into the discussion to provide some background on how any change from the 10 percent increase would impact on the 2016 Budget put in place last May.

As for the level of interest in the ice fees issue, the Recreation Director noted that the ice time at the Civic Centre remains booked  with high demand and that she had not received any concerns from local ice surface users related to the proposed revisions.

Councillor Cunningham tried to clarify the issue by seeking confirmation on how the 5 percent/10 percent split was going to work, observing that he thought the proposed revisions would be accepted by all of the user groups that had expressed concerns.

"So just to simplify it, it's five percent except in everything except for prime which is ten ...  and in the prime time the users are more than happy because that prime time at one time was going to go up by close to fifty percent and now that it's down to ten percent they are quite happy with this."

Ms. Thorpe also outlined for Council that the City is seeking to establishing a local Kid Sport Chapter in the community, something that Council has heard of from past Council sessions.

That program is designed to help those families that may be facing financial challenges when it comes to accessing recreation services.

Councillor Thorkelson also offered her thoughts on the topic, asking about impacts on the Public Skate portion of the Civic Centre calendar, asking what changes if any were being considered for the Public Skating sessions would be offered to the community.

Councillors Cunningham and Randhawa both noted that there had been some problems with the way the City advised the user groups of the previous changes to the fees structure, which is why Council members had been hearing from a number of of residents in recent weeks as the full impact of the previously recommended charges had become apparent.

The Mayor observed that the fees aren't changing, but rather how the city is implemented those changes over the next five years, noting that many user groups understand that there is a need to increase fees to address recreation centre costs and planning.

 He added that the Prime Rate concept is not out of the norm from other communities and is part of a more efficient system that balances the needs of the community and the taxpayer.

Councillor Thorkelson reinforced her concerns over public access to the civic centre facilities, noting that such groups as Minor Hockey, Adult Hockey players and others can always develop fundraising activities to make up the difference, while she was more concerned that those individuals who may have limited means may have problems accessing such things as public skates or public swimming sessions.

After the fifteen minute exchange of views on the topic, Council voted to move forward with the revised recommendations, the vote found only Councillor Randhawa still holding to his opposition of the increases.

A look at the revised City's Ice Schedule can be found below (click to enlarge):

The topic will return to the Council agenda for the September 12th meeting to receive final approval.

The Report Council from the Special Session can be examined from the Agenda of the September 8th meeting on pages two and three

You can review the full range of the talking points on the topic from the City's Video Archive.

More items related to City Council Discussions and issues can be found on our Council Archive page.

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