The City of Colwood has voted to reject the West Shore Parks and Recreation Society’s proposed 2018 budget.
“Colwood is fighting for West Shore Parks and Recreation’s survival by advocating for a sustainable financial plan,” said Mayor Carol Hamilton in a statement. “We risk losing West Shore Parks and Recreation if owner municipalities act in their own interests rather than honouring their contractual obligations.”
Council voted to not approve the deficit budget and in a release stated that deficit was caused by the City of Langford rejecting the 2017 budget.
“Langford has refused to approve the funding requests needed to maintain West Shore Parks and Recreation service levels for their residents,” reads the release. “Langford rejected the 2017 budget on the grounds that their contributions should be reduced because they have invested elsewhere. Langford did not offer to involve West Shore Parks and Recreation in the establishment of other facilities, nor have they proposed any cost sharing agreement related to those facilities for West Shore Parks and Recreation owner municipalities to consider. As a result, West Shore Parks and Recreation has been underfunded, and has had no choice but to propose a deficit budget for 2018 that depletes the organization’s reserves by more than $225,000. This is not a sustainable financial plan.”
West Shore Parks and Recreation is jointly owned and operated by all five West Shore municipalities. The society’s owners’ agreement dictates a governance model and cost distribution formula. That formula takes into account population size and assessment values.
In the past, Langford council has noted its objection to the funding formula and governance model, stating it is unfair as Langford provides a number of recreation facilities that are not operated through West Shore Parks and Recreation but are open to the public.
In 2016, Langford approved the budget but put the society on notice that it would not support other budgets moving forward unless there was “meaningful change” to governance that saw a redistribution of costs amongst the owners and a reduction in Langford’s share.
“Sports tourism facilities serve a different market,” Hamilton noted in the same statement. “West Shore Parks and Recreation is where parents and toddlers bond at preschool programs, where friendships are forged on the playing field or the ice rink, where seniors come to socialize and stay active, where generations play and learn together. It is a vital part of the fabric of our community.”
West Shore Parks and Recreation’s operating agreement requires unanimous budget approval by owner municipalities. If any owner rejects the proposed budget, the society is forced to work from the previous year’s budget.
Langford council approved the 2018 budget last month.
If West Shore Parks and Recreation continues to operate with a deficit, the release noted it will likely mean service cuts and could eventually force the shutdown of the society within five years.
According to the City of Colwood, in order to recover from this deficit, the 2019 budget would need an increase of more than six per cent from taxpayers, just to return to previously funded levels. Colwood’s draft 2018 financial plan allocates a larger increase than what was requested by West Shore Parks and Recreation.