Recreation commission seeks substantial subsidy

Armstrong Spallumcheen Parks and Recreation Commission’s budget wish list will have to be trimmed.

Manager Byron Sager presented a proposed 2011 budget at a joint Armstrong-Spallumcheen council meeting Thursday that called for a $964,000 deficit, based on $1.4 million in costs and only $435,000 in revenue.

The commission also asked for $130,000 for special projects and a $70,000 contingency fund, something parks and recreation hasn’t had in the past.

“The special projects are mostly maintenance items,” said Sager.

If approved by councils, the two communities would subsidize parks and recreation to the tune of $1.165 million, which would be a substantial increase from the $793,000 subsidy parks and rec received in 2010.

It would equal an approximate 10 per cent increase, to be footed by taxpayers.

“Neither one of us can have that kind of increase,” said Armstrong Mayor Chris Pieper. “In Armstrong, a one per cent tax increase generates about $19,000 in revenue.”

The budget request would see Spallumcheen residents pay nearly 54 per cent – $628,027 – of the subsidy while Armstrong’s portion would be slightly more than 46 per cent or $537,144.

While Sayer pointed out that there were success stories in 2010, such as more than $8,000 in revenue from the aging Hassen Arena, some politicians questioned the way the facility is operated if it’s going to cost taxpayers more money to operate it.

“We need to determine if we are spending money in the right spots,” said Spallumcheen Mayor Will Hansma, who also questioned the operations of Centennial Hall. “Are we charging enough for that building (Hassen)? “Realistically we are not bringing in the revenue that we need at those facilities to keep them open. We’d be doing a lot better if we start closing those two buildings down.”

Armstrong Coun. Kelly Rowe questioned what the youth in the communities would do if both facilities were closed.

Councils debated the matter for more than an hour.

“Look, we can keep talking about this but the fact is we have to do something quick,” said Armstrong Coun. Sully O’Sullivan. “We have a deadline we have to meet.”

Both councils will now discuss the matter at their next meetings this month, and both have said they will submit a figure to parks and recreation that they are comfortable with, and can afford, for a subsidy.

“The lowest submitted numbers dictates what the actual budget will be and we’ll have to decide what to do,” said Spallumcheen Coun. Ralph Leyenhorst, who also sits on the recreation commission. “We’ll wait until we get the number and see what we have to do.”

Budgets have to be finalized by May 15 under provincial legislation.