Recent History – 2000
By Christine Podmore, Daily News Staff
The controversy over funding for the sub-regional recreation requisition is surfacing again as Dawson Creek approaches the apprehensive rural districts for more contributions.
“The whole sub-recreation thing has been a issue for many years,” said Dawson Creek Mayor Blair Lekstrom. “I think when you build a community for everyone and there’s a 90/10 split, 90 per cent being paid by the city, it isn’t equitable.”
Based on the numbers looked at for the arena referendum a couple of years ago, roughly 37 per cent of recreation facility users are from the surrounding area and therefore do not pay taxes in Dawson Creek. The percentage of users from Pouce Coupe was not available.
“We don’t anticipate that if 37 per cent of the users are rural, that they should pay 37 per cent of the cost,” said Lekstrom. “Also on the other hand, 10 per cent doesn’t seem quite fair either.”
The sub-regional recreation requisition is a tax requisition put on by the regional district to pay for the upkeep and costs of their recreation facilities. The tax based funding is split giving 75 per cent to Dawson Creek and Pouce Coupe and the remaining 25 per cent to area D and a portion of area E. Of that 75 per cent, 90 per cent goes to Dawson Creek and 10 per cent goes to Pouce Coupe which is a change from the 97/3 split about four years ago.
“This issue isn’t the split,” said Lekstrom. “The issue is how much money comes in. I don’t think its ever been enough in that sense.”
Pouce Coupe Mayor Jill Wonnacott says the issue is returning to council at there next meeting, April 3, and acknowledges the problem.
“Giving them more money is not the answer,” said Wonnacott. “There should be some way that the rural area and Pouce are paying for the use of those facilities.
“I really do feel that we cannot separate ourselves because that’s the only swimming pool, that’s the only arena, and the only curling club.”
The recreation facilities funded by the requisition are the Dawson Creek Memorial Arena, the Kid’s Kin arena, the swimming pool, and the library.
Dawson Creek is being knocked for not bringing in the same net profits as its neighbouring partners, which is adding to the problem of attaining additional funding.
Last year Dawson Creek put $256,806 into the fund but made $354,435 from the facilities for a difference of $97,629. In contrast, Pouce Coupe paid in $12,890 and received a return of $37,000, for a difference of $24,110, nearly double what they initially put in.
“They put in $12,000 versus our $256,000 but they gained $37,000 out,” said Lekstrom. “I guess if you look at a percentage on return, it’s significant.”
When questioned about Dawson Creek’s inability to produce such a ratio, Lekstrom replied: “There’s some history on that. We’re not sure. We’re trying to bring those dollars up and what you have now with that $98,000 net benefit that we get, that’s roughly right around 10 per cent of what it costs us for those facilities.”
Lekstrom says no municipality in the region pay 90 cents of every dollar for their facilities except Dawson Creek.
Chetwynd has a sharing agreement with their surrounding area and Fort St. John has a regionally-funded pool.
“It’s working right now but it’s always something when you try and find what I think could be a better equitable solution,” said Lekstrom. “You have to work with your neighbours and that’s what we’re doing.”
Wonnacott says a decision to increase contributions would have to be left to a referendum, allowing the people of Pouce Coupe and surrounding areas to have the final say
“I know that they turned down the Memorial arena, but personally I think there should be a contribution,” said Wonnacott. “I don’t know what the answer is but I think we’re going to have to get together and decide what’s going to be done,” said Wonnacott.
“If we did go to referendum, we’re going have to do our homework and do it right.”
Lekstrom also says it is tough to get rural residents to pay for a facility that they already have access to.
Lekstrom says he realizes that driving in and out of Dawson Creek adds to the cost of using the facilities in the city.
But he said politicians seem to be recognizing the situation for Dawson Creek.
“This is not something you achieve over night,” said Lekstrom. “You have to make sure everybody has a understanding of what the actual costs are and what the needs are.
“The reality is that the days of municipalities supplying all the services at the cost of the taxpayers, I guess, is something that has to be looked at.
“What we’re trying to do is find a balance that is good for everybody.”