Some areas of the Cowichan Valley Regional District will pay more for the use of recreational facilities in the district if the regional referendum on the issue passes in October, while others will pay less.
A staff report that was discussed at the CVRD’s committee of the whole meeting on May 11 presented the possible financial implications to each electoral area and municipality in the CVRD to give an idea of what residents can expect if the referendum on switching to a usage-based funding model is successful.
John Elzinga, CVRD general manager of community services, cautioned that the financial numbers presented in the report are a snapshot of what each electoral area and municipality in the CVRD could possibly have to pay based on an analysis of usage at nine significant recreation facilities in the district in 2019, the year before the COVID-19 pandemic began.
“Every year is different, but we had to provide the board with a snapshot of the financial implications,” Elzinga said.
According to the report, the Municipality of North Cowichan could see a cut of approximately $714,000 per year, 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.
The nine significant recreation facilities the report was based on are 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.
Board chair Lori Iannidinardo, who is the director for Cowichan Bay, said the CVRD has worked long and hard to develop a plan to deal with the contentious issue around finding an equitable funding solution for recreation facilities in the region.
“I appreciate that for the people that are fairly new [at the table], it seems very complicated and they are doing their job of trying to protect their communities from their taxes being raised, but this is something that is fair and equitable that we’ve worked on for a long time,” she said.
“It doesn’t do much for [Cowichan Bay] but I’m a regional thinker and this is a basic model that we need to move forward and maybe put this [issue] to rest.”
After reviewing a number of alternative funding models for the nine significant recreation facilities in the area, the CVRD decided in 2020 to move forward with a usage-based 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.
As part of the process, the nine recreation centres undertook facility-usage studies to assist in the development of the new equitable funding model, and that work resulted in the presentation at the COW meeting.
Currently, recreation projects and complexes in the CVRD are planned, built and funded piecemeal by self-interested areas and municipalities within the regional district, rather than by the regional district as a whole.
This has led to years of in-fighting amongst areas within the CVRD as they compete for recreation projects and dollars, including funding for the maintenance and operation of the facilities.
Mike Wilson, the director for Cobble Hill, which would see costs increase by about $270,000 if the new funding formula is adopted, said he agrees that the proposed new formula is fair.
“I know this has been in the pipeline for a long time and the questions I’m asking are purely so I can measure the impact on my area and be better able to explain this to the residents who are going to come forward and ask these questions,” he said.
Klaus Kuhn, the director for Youbou/Meade Creek, said the user-based funding formula is quite simple.
He said the CVRD is trying to see that everyone pays for whatever recreational services they use in the district.
“In the past way of doing this, there were areas that paid for services that they didn’t really use an awful lot, and there were others areas that used a lot of services and never paid for them.” Kuhn said.
“We’re trying to level it out in a way in which if people want to use a service, they are going to have to pay for it.”
Voters will have their say during the referendum on the issue, that will take place in conjunction with the next municipal election on Oct. 15.
The CVRD intends to conduct a regional communications campaign detailing the financial impacts of the usage-based model through the summer and early fall before the referendum is held.