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Recreation fee increase approved by Powell River Council

“The fees that are increasing generally are not impacting our youth or our super seniors." ~ Trina Isakson, finance committee chair
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BYLAW PASSES: Users of parks, recreation and cultural services from City of Powell River, will, for the most part, face increases of 3.5 per cent over the next two years, with the exception of children, youth and people 85-years-old and older.

City of Powell River councillors have approved increases to fees and charges for the parks, recreation and culture department.

At the May 18 city council meeting, councillors gave final reading to a bylaw that will have most fees increasing by 3.5 per cent annually.

Councillor Trina Isakson, chair of the city’s finance committee, said this is another series of increases proposed by staff in line with what is appropriate, and also acknowledging there were some freezes in rates throughout COVID-19.

“The fees that are increasing generally are not impacting our youth or our super seniors (85-years-old and older),” said Isakson. “Those rates will remain the same for access to the Powell River Recreation Complex, but there are some other charges that have modest increases.

“They are quite small, but given the work and research that staff have put into suggesting rate increases, and acknowledging the rec centre is one of the costliest elements of our community but is an important community service, staff weighed the value and the cost of this facility, and I support the bylaw that has been put forward.”

Councillor Cindy Elliott said she is in favour of the bylaw and the fee schedule is good, but she wanted to reiterate that she also wanted for the city at some point to consider ways to make sure children can participate at the facility even if their families cannot afford it.

“I know we do have some programs but we could do better in that department, but the fee schedule is good,” said Elliott.

Council voted unanimously in favour of the bylaw.

At the April 27 committee of the whole meeting, director of parks, recreation and culture Tara O’Donnell introduced the bylaw, which recommended a two-year duration, with most fees increasing by 3.5 per cent annually.

“The city’s parks, recreation and culture department has many programs and services that we offer the public and user fees are required,” said O’Donnell. “The fees account for approximately one-third of the recreation complex’s operating expenses. Before these fees and charges are implemented, it’s the requirement that council approve the recommended fees.

“Services we are talking about include swimming, fitness, arena drop-ins, admission fees to the complex, recreational programs provided by the department, as well as facility and park rentals.”

She said in 2022, the average annual inflation rate in BC was 6.9 per cent, which is the highest it has been in 40 years. She said the recreation complex is nearing what is considered the end of its functional life expectancy. The city has embraced a fulsome rehabilitation plan with the primary goal of extending the life expectancy for a minimum of 25 years, she added.

“That’s a key factor when we consider our fiscal operating challenges, both now and into the future,” said O’Donnell. “Notwithstanding the challenges of how we recoup our revenue and ensure we remain financially and fiscally responsible, we also know through research, how important the value of active living and providing opportunities for our residents is.

“We want to make sure our user fees are fair and accessible, as well as providing no- and low-cost opportunities. It’s a very important factor in reducing barriers for those living at or below the poverty line.”

O’Donnell said to address this, the proposal was for a modest 3.5 per cent annual increase in most fees over the next two years.

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