It's going to cost a little more cash (or, in a few cases, a lot more cash) to use recreational services provided by the City of Estevan.
City council has approved a battery of rate increases that will slightly increase the rates for the swimming pool and the weight room at the Souris Valley Aquatic and Leisure Centre. It'll also cost more if you want to have a birthday at the pool or the multi-purpose room, if you want to rent such venues, or if you're a user group that relies on Spectra Place for games or practices.
If you want to host a big event at Spectra Place, it'll cost you a lot more money. The already pricey rates for removing the glass and laying down the floor will increase to more than $2,200. And the cost of having City staff set up and take down tables and chairs has increased a whopping 165 per cent, and has also surpassed the $2,200 mark
The rate increases are often tied to a simple concept: Leisure Services rate recoveries. Traditionally the City has hovered around a 25 to 35 per cent recovery clip; according to the City, they're now up to 46 per cent.
It seems that 50 per cent is now in reach, which would make the scrooges who criticize publicly-funded recreation services a little less unhappy; of course, they'll never be happy until everything is privatized.
Rate increases for Leisure Services should be expected. A five per cent increase covers increases in salaries, supplies, equipment and repairs.
It's time to view Leisure Services rate increases in a similar light to property tax increases. There are two options. You can keep them rates and property taxes at the same level. People will be happy until they see services cut. Or they can increase incrementally, keep pace with inflation, and maintain or even improve services.
Now, when the rate increases are too steep, people suffer from rate shock, and the rate increase or property tax hike becomes unaffordable for some. So it has to be reasonable.
The City has an obligation to provide services for its residents. It can't be just left up to the private sector. (Although some private sector involvement in recreation wouldn't be a bad thing). The City has to step in, provide services on a user-pay basis (except for the playparks, which will always be free), and aim for a cost recovery rate of 40 to 50 per cent.
It's another fine line that council members get to walk on an annual basis.