Swift Current approves six per cent recreation facility rate hike for 2014

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Users of Swift Current's recreational facilities will be paying six per cent higher fees for 2014 after Swift Current City Council approved a series of increases during their Aug. 19 council meeting.

Over the past three years rates have gone up by similar amounts, jumping by five per cent in 2011 and four per cent in each of the past two years. Back in 2007 council approved a 10 per cent increase for all rates, with 2010 featuring just a two per cent increase. This year's fee recommendations were approved by Swift Current's Recreation and Parks Board at their July 23 meeting. Fees were recommended to increase based on increased facility operational expenses anticipated for the coming year. Operational expenses are impacted by operational costs, electricity, gas, water, wages, contractor costs, materials and equipment.

"It's always the Rec. and Parks Board prerogative to have less of an increase at all times," explained Dean Robson, General Manager of Community Services. "The six per cent pretty well keeps us at the level we need to be at."

With the fees approved, the city will be generating 47 per cent of facility operating expenses through user fees, with the remainder covered through taxation. Overall total recovery rates have grown from 35 per cent in 2006 to 46 per cent last year, with 2013 also anticipating a 46 per cent recovery rate.

The higher recovery rate is part of a plan to work towards a 50 per cent user-fee facility recovery rate, an increase from the 40 per cent goal which had previously been the target. As part of the fee recommendation, council was informed administration will be developing a strategy to achieve half of operational costs through "regional opportunities and other alternative funding".

"I'm really looking forward to that report coming forward, and I think we're going to have to change the way that we do business in some areas within the City here," explained Councillor Gord Budd when discussing the fees.

As operational expenses not recovered by user fees are traditionally paid for through taxation, Mayor Jerrod Schafer also agreed with the new strategy being proposed.

"I appreciate that that's the strategy, I think it's a fair strategy, and I look forward to the concepts. We're not just the City of Swift Current, we're a very big region in this area. There's lots of communities that are struggling with recreation."

"Our taxpayers subsidize recreation in a big way, but it's for the benefit of the community. There's lots of folks that pay taxes and don't necessarily use parks or pathways and rinks and things like that. But it is part of attracting new families and creating activities for seniors and overall having a healthy community," Schafer said.

"The reality of it is is getting from 46 or a 47 per cent recovery rate to a 50 per cent recovery rate on operating these facilities isn't a huge dollar amount. But we also have to be very mindful that folks that are using these facilities have to pay more. But there's also cases in communities where fees keep escalating to a point where it actually had the opposite effect, it gets so expensive that usership goes down."

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Organizations: Swift Current City Council, Recreation and Parks Board

Geographic location: Swift Current

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