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LETTER: In support of a 'no' vote in recreation referendum

Letters to the editor
By Letters to the editor
May 26th, 2018

To the Editor:

We face an important decision on the June 23 referendum to approve two bylaws (2597 and 2598) that would raise the cap on RDCK recreation-related taxes to finance $22 million of a proposed $32.3 million enhancement of the rec centre and aquatic centre. This is an enormous 25-year tax burden for a relatively small tax base to take on for a non-essential service.  It deserves close scrutiny.

So far the conversation has produced more heat than light, and the “facts” have been a moving target. For example, over and over we’ve been told we’ll pay no more than $48.10 per $100,000 of assessed property value. But the RDCK Taxation Impact chart shows otherwise: Bylaw 2597 provides for taxation beyond that amount by a margin of 9% on our total recreation taxes. Every voter should take a long, hard look at that chart before casting a vote.

The complex runs at a 2/3 deficit, which we all subsidize through our property taxes. A larger complex serving the same number of people will inevitably run a larger deficit, which we will continue to pay for along with the new taxes in Bylaw 2598. Supporters claim the additional operating cost will be $160,000 annually, but that seems unlikely when the current budget is close to $3 million and certain hefty costs
—such as various types of insurance—have not been included in that optimistic estimate.

We’ve been told that 2/3 of people support the proposal.  That’s an impressive number until you realize it’s based on a survey that some people never received and most people didn’t return.  The return rate of 16% is insufficient to demonstrate what the taxpayers of this region do or don’t want from the complex. Two-thirds of 16% percent is no mandate.

To shore up the fuzzy math and speculative plans, taxpayer-funded grants totaling $10,750 have been awarded to an unchartered special interest group to convince the rest of us to vote yes.  This is the exact opposite of the way representative government should work:  We’re supposed to tell our representatives how to vote, not vice versa, and we certainly shouldn’t have to pay to be propagandized.

Is there a better alternative to the current proposal?  A recent study of ice time usage in the region concluded that the Castlegar complex uses 1-½ sheets of ice time, as does Nelson.  When Pioneer is no longer usable, Castlegar will need another ½ sheet of ice time.  Fortunately, the RDCK has a centrally located property near Brent Kennedy School that was donated for the express purpose of recreation.

Building a new recreation facility there would provide much-needed services and activities in a more equitably accessible location and alleviate crowding in the Castlegar complex.  A larger number of areas between Castlegar and Nelson could participate in funding that facility so it would be more affordable for all stakeholders. The location is convenient for use by local schools for swim lessons, PE classes, and
competitions. It would be a win/win situation.

We can be bold AND smart.  It starts with a NO vote on June 23 to clear the drawing board for a better plan.

Respectfully submitted,
Donald and Linda Evans

Categories: IssuesLettersOp/Ed

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