The City aims to use a benefits based approach to fees, so that those who benefit from a service pay in proportion to what they receive.
Director of Community Services Sarah Cockerill explained in a presentation to council that calculating the total cost to provide a space over a year by projecting future costs instead of averaging past years would mean less of a jump for users when costs are reviewed later on. However, because previous costs were done historically, some were left out in the previous bylaw, so fees may increase between zero and 300 per cent to “catch up”.
“We didn’t include some parking lot maintenance, say at the [Pomeroy Sport Centre],” Cockerill gives as an example. “Now that everything is in there, this type of spike should level off; it should just generally be the annual increases.”
Other proposed changes would see users that block off access to a facility and charge admission, like the Fort St. John Huskies and Senior Flyers at the North Peace Arena, lose their subsidies. The Huskies currently receive a 75 per cent youth non-profit subsidy for the 21 or so games they host a year, while the Flyers receive a 50 per cent adult non-profit subsidy for the around 10 games they play at home. Since they block public access and charge cover that only benefits their club, under the revised bylaw they would be classified as private fundraising use and not receive a subsidy.
Both hockey teams have noted their displeasure with the change.
“The notable comment was from the Flyers. They acknowledge that the 50 per cent subsidies for practice times is valuable, and they’re not excited about the increase but have indicated they understand,” says Cockerill. “The Huskies are not happy about the increase and have not commented further. The Huskies have indicated this would be a hardship and would like to know their alternatives to the increase.”
Councillor Bruce Christensen added that in conversation he’s had with a member of the Huskies, they would prefer the cost to be phased in to allow for the adjustment of ticket prices, while it was also noted that the Energetic City Roller Derby Association has expressed their understanding of the increase, as they would also be affected.
Councillor Byron Stewart shared his concern that the increased fees might hinder groups like those from providing what he calls a “service” to the community, through public events and representing the city on their travels.
“They are operating in such a way that they are attracting our citizens for evenings of entertainment. They are providing a service that way,” he maintains. “Without those events we are eliminating one of the general enjoyable aspects of living in a northern community.”
However, both City Manager Diane Hunter and Councillor Gord Klassen argued that the services would likely continue, and that those interested in attending would bear the increases.
“It is certain individuals who enjoy the specific events like that,” says Klassen. “I think a minimal increase in ticket prices will continue to bring those people there and pay the increased cost to these organizations.”
City Council was presented with options for both a one-year and three-year phase-in plan, and requested that staff come back with the numbers for a five-year phase-in plan in August. If approved, users would be provided one year’s notice, and the recalculated fees would come into effect on September 1, 2014.