The Cowichan Valley Regional District is looking for support from its municipalities and electoral areas for a new funding formula that would provide some stability in the ongoing funding of the Chesterfield Sport Society, the non-profit society that runs the Sportsplex in Duncan.
For the past several years, the Sportsplex has relied on continued grant-in-aid from these municipalities and electoral areas, meaning a residential tax rate for all jurisdictions of .64 cents on every $100,000 for property owners.
A new financial contribution service would eliminate the need for this continued grant-in-aid each year, and would provide the extra $46,000 being sought for 2013. In order to make this happen, the CVRD is looking to poll the municipalities and electoral areas to see which are willing to participate in the service, and as a result draft a bylaw which would define the partners and how the annual requisition would be allotted between them.
If all 13 agree to the service, it would mean that residents would be paying a capped (using 2012 assessment data) .94 cents per $100,000 assessment.
“Creating this service creates some permanence for the Sportsplex, at least more concrete than a regional grant-in-aid,” said Joe Barry, manager, legislative services for the CVRD.
This has been an ongoing issue for the CVRD and the Sportsplex, and the last time a poll was conducted was in 2010 with five municipalities/electoral areas voting for the service, four voting against (or choosing not to participate), Lake Cowichan and Areas F and I being among them, and four saying their participation was conditional.
At the last Lake Cowichan council meeting on Tuesday, August 7, Coun. Tim McGonigle, who sits on the CVRD board, clearly outlined the proposal for mayor and council, and reiterated that in the last vote, the town did not support the service.
“I don’t think it’s fair to the Sportsplex to continually come back year after year seeking a regional grant in aid . . . I think it’s fair for the people who want to finance this function be afforded that opportunity and those that do not wish to be afforded the opportunity to back away,” said McGonigle.
“I don’t think the answer lies in the elected officials at that table. I think it’s time to get this subject off the political realm and into the public’s hands,” he added.
Currently, per area usage of the Sportsplex sits at 1.9 per cent for Lake Cowichan, .6 per cent for Area I, and .8 per cent for Area F. McGonigle would like to see taxation based on these numbers as opposed to a flat rate spread across all electoral areas and municipalities.
Barry says that this formula is definitely an option, “but it has to be the political direction,” he said and added that the issue will go to the public after it is determined which municipalities and electoral areas are willing to participate and which funding formula will be used in order to draft a bylaw which will then be given three readings and be sent back to the municipalities and areas for review.
The type of public input depends on the public process requested by the board; either an alternative approval process which would need 10 per cent no vote to see the service defeated, and would see a minimal cost to the public, or a referendum, which could cost the public $65,000 region wide, according to Barry.
Catherine Brandon, the executive director of the Sportsplex says that as a not-for-profit, the facility does not just generate funding through municipalities and electoral areas, but also through fundraising, donations, and sponsorships, but these are becoming harder to come by.
“In the beginning it was easier to generate these funds to build the facility,” said Brandon. “But now we need operating money,” for things like washrooms, maintenance, and staff wages.
“The only way we can continue operating [in 2013 without a new funding service] is by tapping into reserves that are finite. We don’t have enough to continue,” she said.
She states that without continued funding the facility would have to be turned back over to the Municipality of North Cowichan which would erode the tradition of the Sportsplex and end up costing tax payers more.
Her plea to the public is for them to make their voices heard by their elected officials.
“There are a lot of events here and a lot of Lake Cowichan people participate [in these events]. Give your director a call and let them know you are in favour,” concluded Brandon.