Nanaimo’s 2014 Budget: PR&C Dept., Round 2 – POOLS
Ron Bolin: Oct. 17, 2013
The second round of Nanaimo’s attempt at a new approach to budgeting using the Parks, Recreation and Culture Department as an example began at 9am in the Board Room of the City’s new SARK (City Hall Annex) building. Councillor Anderson was again a no-show, and Councillor Brennan came late and left early as did I at 11am to make another appointment. Approximately the first 50 minutes were spent going over information on arena operations which was missing from the first meeting last week, but the modified documents were not handed out. I await receiving copies.
The documents presented regarding pool operations followed those used in the ARENA materials: See:
Click to access SOCOW131016A.pdf
The basic estimates for operating and maintainable Income and Expenses for the pools ( NAC: Nanaimo Aquatic Centre and the Beban Pool) in the 2014 draft budget shows:
Debt charges and a transfer to Facility Reserves adds another $980,705 to the overall costs bringing the total cost to general ratepayers to $3,807,924.
What this means is that every man, woman and child in Nanaimo will pay over $42 in property taxes for the pools –if they don’t Use them.
If they do use the pools, the cost goes up considerably. See the Rates for the use of City PR&C pool and arena facilities here:
Click to access admissionsNEW.pdf
Another way to look at this is that for each dollar paid by a pool user, general ratepayers pay nearly 2 dollars. Is this sustainable in a town where a large proportion of its citizens are low income earners? Is it the case that, via taxes, low income earners subsidize higher income earners. I know that I do not resent necessary subsidies to those who may be worse off that I, but I heartily resent subsidizing those who are better off than I.
Council’s discussion of this matter did reflect these concerns to somje extent but, I would suggest, requires much more consideration and the outlines of major policy directions. As in the case of ARENA use, a proper business plan (even remembering that a municipality is more than just a business) must in the end account for its expenditures. As recent examples have demonstrated, while a city is more than a business, like a business it can go bankrupt. Talk at yesterday’s presentation seemed to me to dwell a bit too much on details and not enough on policy.
I was particularly disappointed that the entire issue of the City’s asset management plan seemed to only receive a wink and a nod. The facilities involved in our arenas and pools are significant parts of our municipal assets, estimated in 2011 at $2.2 Billion dollars. That figure was arrived at by adding the values of all our City Assets, including the arena and pool facilities, as well as estimates of the monies required to maintain them. See:
Click to access 2012AssetManagementUpdate.pdf
The data from the Asset Management report on these facilities over time has not been provided. This handicaps the long term process of rational decisions regarding the management of our facilities, i.e. when to acquire, when to maintain, when to demolish, when to build, when to demolish or sell. We remain trapped in short term planning. The typical lifespan of a city asset ranges up to at least 80 years for some asset classes. A five year horizon does not provide the scope to adequate resource planning. We have the longer range information. Why is it not used? Why is it not public?
I find this subsidy for pool use very high. Also, the subsidy for arena use seems very high. Perhaps because I don’t use any of these facilities I’m a tad more miffed then I should be.
I have a number of questions:
Are these facilities been used to capacity? Is there more room to bring in more paying users? Are we able to increase user fees without losing a significant number of users?
Should we be shutting down some facilities?
I know we have to be careful about this, but a simple spreadsheet should solve the problem. Like busses, if one increases user fees without improving service, use goes down and it tends to drop to a point where the subsidy has to increase to pay for the existing service.
Are we already at that point? Are we charging too much for using the facilities?
Yes, I can see the need for some business like planning.
As a resident of area A in the RDN I do not pay Nanaimo’s high taxes but we do pay to the RDN for use of these facilities.
As a frequent user of the Aquatic Centre I would caution making a business out of the arenas be it gym,swim or hockey.
Should the rates increase too much , in this land of low wages & income, it could drive away those that already use the facilities.
We are aware of the results of seditary lifestyles surely we do not want to encourage this?
Unhealthy lifestyles now traslates to higher health care in years to come.
The use of these facilities should be encouraged.
Perhaps we should ask why they cost so much to operate?
Some of the expences are obvious such as high wages for staff but what of the many freebies given to different groups.
I know of those that abuse the system to gain free access for theraputic reasons ; I also believe that First Nations recieve subsidised or free access as do students.
If we consider the Beban pool; has the excessive water leak been repaired?
Do we need two pools, do we need so many ice rinks?