It’s being estimated that North Cowichan’s funding for recreation facilities would decrease by approximately $710,000, or 11.2 per cent, overall over the three-year phase-in period if the referendum on a new funding model for recreation facilities in the region passes on Oct. 15.
Talitha Soldera, North Cowichan’s finance director, told council at its meeting on Aug. 17 that if the referendum, which seeks to align local government funding with the residency of recreational facility users for the first time, passes, some of the funding burden for the three major recreation facilities owned by the municipality would be shared by other members of the Cowichan Valley Regional District.
The three facilities owned by North Cowichan are the Cowichan Aquatic Centre, Fuller Lake Arena and the Cowichan Sportsplex.
But Soldera said under the new funding model North Cowichan would also have to pay for the upkeep and maintenance of other facilities in the region for which it had previously paid little or nothing.
“The usage study conducted during the regional recreation review showed that North Cowichan residents represent only 50.15 per cent of the users at the CAC, while North Cowichan property taxes account for 62.4 percent of the total revenues,” she said.
“North Cowichan residents represent 52.50 per cent of users at the Fuller Lake Arena, but account for 76.4 per cent of the total revenue.”
John Elzinga, the CVRD’s general manager of community services, told council in June that, based on the financial numbers for the facilities in 2019, North Cowichan taxpayers would see their funding for the CAC decrease from approximately $2.37 million to $1.44 million annually, and decrease from $690,000 to $360,000 at Fuller Lake Arena under the new funding model.
But he said North Cowichan’s contributions would expect to increase at some centres outside its boundaries, including the Cowichan Lake Sports Arena where funding would increase from nothing to $410,000.
Council decided at the meeting on Aug. 17 that, if the referendum fails, a two-tier (resident/non-resident) fee schedule will be considered for North Cowichan’s facilities.
North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring said the issue has been ongoing for about 50 years.
“I’m so pleased that I could see this completed before I ride off into the sunset,” said Siebring, who is not running for reelection in October.
After reviewing a number of alternative funding models for nine significant recreation facilities in the area, the CVRD has decided to try to move forward with a usage-based funding model that would better reflect the proportion of cost each municipality and electoral area should contribute to the ongoing maintenance and operation of each facility.
The nine facilities include the Cowichan Aquatic Centre, Cowichan Community Centre, Cowichan Lake Sports Arena, Cowichan Performing Arts Centre, Cowichan Sportsplex, Ladysmith Frank Jameson Community Centre, Fuller Lake Arena, Kerry Park Recreation Centre and the Shawnigan Lake Community Centre.
A CVRD report released in March correctly estimated that North Cowichan could see a cut of approximately $714,000 per year if the referendum passed, the City of Duncan could pay about $280,000 less, while the Cowichan Lake South/Skutz Falls electoral area could see its costs cut by about $400,000 and the Youbou/Meade Creek electoral area could see a $367,000 cost cut.
All the rest of the municipalities and electoral areas in the CVRD would likely pay more.
They ranged from the Shawnigan Lake electoral area that could see an increase of approximately $360,000 per year, to the Cowichan Bay electoral area that could see a relatively small increase of costs of about $8,200.