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Column: Regional referendum – who should pay for recreation facilities?

Funding for recreation facilities has been an issue in Cowichan since the late 1960s
(Citizen file)

By the Cowichan Valley Regional District

When voting in the upcoming local government elections this October, eligible voters across the Cowichan region will also be asked if they are in favour of a new funding model for the region’s nine largest publicly funded recreation facilities.

Fair, equitable funding for recreation facilities has been an issue in Cowichan since the Fuller Lake Arena was built in the late 1960s. The issue is that tax support for many facilities is different from the areas that actually use them. So, in 2015 the CVRD board directed that a review of funding for the recreation facilities be undertaken.

That review led to the current proposed change that’s up for voter consideration; a usage-based model, where jurisdictions contribute to the nine largest facilities based on their area’s usage. The nine facilities include: the Cowichan Community Centre, Cowichan Performing Arts Centre, Cowichan Aquatic Centre, Cowichan Sportsplex, Cowichan Lake Sports Arena, Kerry Park Recreation Centre, Shawnigan Lake Community Centre, Fuller Lake Arena, and the Frank Jameson Community Centre in Ladysmith.

The new funding model would shift who pays into the current funding for these facilities. Two facility usage studies were conducted to calculate the appropriate amounts that jurisdictions would pay toward the nine facilities. This alternate funding model means some areas’ tax contributions would go up, and some areas’ contributions would go down, based on the area’s usage. The facility usage studies, further background information, financial implications to each jurisdiction and to individual residents can all be found on the project site:

Residents can see the increase or decrease based on their individual assessment, using 2019 budget numbers, which were felt to be the most representative of normal expenditures, pre-COVID-19 pandemic. The impacts for the average home in each jurisdiction ranges from an increase of $140 per year, to a decrease of $248 per year. The proposed funding changes would be phased in over three years to ease the impacts on taxpayers. This means a tax increase of $140 under the new funding model would be an increase of $47 per year for the next three years; likewise, a savings of $248 would be an incremental decrease of $83 per year for the next three years.

The CVRD board is presenting this opportunity to address the inequitable funding for recreation facilities, and looks forward to your consideration this October.