by EVAN MATTHEWS
The Village of Valemount has approved the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George’s (RDFFG) proposal to increase the Canoe Valley Recreation Centre’s (CVRC) annual requisition by 25 per cent.
The RDFFG will have the final say as to whether or not the requisition – the amount raised from local taxpayers – is approved at its February meeting.
The CVRC’s total operating budget for the 2016 year was $633,850, with the requisition last year coming out to $324,740. The Canoe Valley Rec Centre operates the arena and a fitness room.
The proposed increase would allow the RDFFG to access a maximum of 25 per cent in additional annual requisition — roughly $81,185, for a total annual requisition of $405,925 — via the taxpayer.
But according to Village CAO, Gord Simmons, the regional district wouldn’t necessarily use the full allotment.
“There’s no guarantee (the regional district) will go to the maximum each year… They could go under,” said Simmons. “But they won’t go over.”
The funding increase would be used equally between planned upgrades and emergency repairs, with 50 percent going to each, according to the regional district.
The RDFFG said the increases to staff salaries and training are in order to provide “more services and extended hours of operation.”
In 2014, the CVRC’s staff training budget line reads $2,833, while in 2016 it came out to $3,000. In 2014, CVRC paid its employees $241,140 in salary, while it paid them $245,000 in 2016. Mandatory benefits also increased by $12,000 over that time. The proposed 2017 budget won’t be considered until February.
“It’s something we have to do,” – Councillor Hollie Blanchette
Maintenance within the building has gone up, in 2014 the CVRC spent $91,061 while in 2016 maintenance and repairs topped $105,000.
The regional district did research into raising user fees in order to offset some of the cost, according to CAO Simmons, but the profits garnered from raising user fees was deemed to be minimal.
At the Dec. 13 council meeting, Councillor Hollie Blanchette said though nobody likes to raise taxes, a recreation centre is an integral part of the community, no different than the library.
“It’s something we have to do,” said Blanchette.
But not all the Village councillors jumped at the chance to up the funding.
“I have some concerns,” said Councillor Sandy Salt. “I’m wondering why there are such substantial increases. I recall in 2011 when that 25 per cent increase went in… It was understandable because there hadn’t been an increase in 10 years.” She noted the Village agreed to that increase under the assumption it wouldn’t see another hike for some time.
“We’re not even 10 years out, we’re only five, and they’re looking for another 25 per cent increase… What’s happening that there are such big increases?” She asked.
Mayor Townsend pointed out whereas municipalities have the ability to move money within the budget from one line or item to another, the regional district does not have the same luxury.
Denying the request for requisition increase would mean a number of potential negatives, according to a report written by Village CAO Simmons, including staff layoffs, difficulty hiring certified people, reducing operating time, or closing the rec centre altogether.
“These are all current budget items,” said Councillor Peter Reimer. “It suggests the increase is going towards operating as current, rather than reserve funding.”
Coun. Reimer asked to see a detailed list of expenditures for the recreation centre, in order to see if an increase is warranted, though the list was not present at the meeting.
“The monies would go to (current and reserve) funding,” said CAO Simmons. “The increased staff and cost to operate, and the reserves… It’s not one or the other.
“In effect, if the requisition is not approved, the odds of (CVRC) closing for a portion of the year are very real.”
Though not stated at the meeting, the CVRC already closes down for one month a year, most recently in August 2016.
Additional funds will be needed to “keep up with inflation and to assist with future enhancements and repairs,” RDFFG’s General Manager of Community Services, Donna Munt told the Goat.
Repairs include a compressor rebuild, installing infrastructure to recapture surplus heat — which will reduce propane cost substantially, she says — and to have a dedicated change room for the Exercise Room clients.
Grant funding will also need to be secured for this work to be completed, Munt says.
The compressor rebuild is scheduled for 2018, and will be completed with or without grant money, according to Munt, while the other projects will be scheduled if the RDFFG (and CVRC) are successful in receiving a grant.
“We continue to monitor for available grants and if a grant becomes available we will apply,” says Munt.
“Because grants never cover 100 per cent of the cost, it’s important we have the matching funds set aside to meet the financial condition of most grants,” she says.