Langford council has taken a bold step to pressure other West Shore Parks and Recreation Society owners into re-evaluating the society’s governance model and cost distribution formula.
Rather than sending the society another notice of concern over those issues, council ultimately decided to reject the society’s proposed 2017 budget after careful consideration at Monday’s meeting. The document requires unanimous approval from all of the society’s owners.
Ed Watson, society chair and one of Metchosin’s community representatives, said Tuesday of the rejection, “it’s not a complete surprise,” adding that the funding formula “has been somewhat controversial for years.”
Last year Langford council approved the society’s budget, but served notice the City would not support “any” budget for 2017 unless there had been a meaningful change made to the governance of the owners committee, one that redistributed costs amongst the owners and resulted in a reduction of Langford’s contribution.
“We’re spending more money on recreation out here than any other municipality,” said Langford Mayor Stew Young. “They get to use our facilities with no taxation charges whatsoever.”
Jim Bowden, Langford’s chief administrative officer, noted that was the discussion at the owners meeting roughly 10 months ago. “The owners recommended we undertake a study to determine who’s using what facilities. The CAOs have been trying to work on that … We’ve looked into it and the study will cost about $200,000 and we don’t believe there’s any sense in us doing that.”
All five West Shore municipalities and the Juan de Fuca Electoral District make up the society’s ownership. Although, Watson noted, the latter has expressed an interest in no longer being involved.
“Put the increase on the others,” Young said. “We don’t need to do the dog and pony show for $200,000 to tell us that we’re paying more than everyone else.”
Councillors initially fought to find ways to approve this year’s budget, while still putting pressure on the other owners. Young suggested council send a letter listing all of the recreation amenities the City is paying for in Langford, which are open to all West Shore residents. To balance out that added expense, he noted, other West Shore municipalities should cover more of Langford’s contribution to the West Shore Parks and Recreation Society.
Coun. Lanny Seaton pointed to the skatepark project the society is moving forward on. With a $10,000 bill being considered for the design stage, Seaton was concerned Langford would be hit with an even bigger bill by the end of the project and suggested that it be funded equally by the owners instead of based on a percentage.
But ultimately, council decided not to approve the budget. If the budget is not approved unanimously by the end of February, as outlined in the operating maintenance and management agreement between the owners and West Shore Parks and Recreation Society, the previous year’s budget would carry into the current year.
A municipality’s share is determined by a funding formula that takes into account population size and assessment values. The society’s proposed budget for 2017, according to a Langford staff report, sought an increase of just under $77,800 (up roughly 1.5 per cent from 2016) in municipal requisitions. However, Langford’s requisition increased by more than $81,000 (3.25 per cent) and the report stated that discrepancy was due to Langford’s higher growth rate than other municipal contributors. But due to that growth, the proposed 2017 budget would actually mean a decrease of about $0.11 in cost to the average Langford-based tax payer.
Colwood Coun. Rob Martin, who sits on the board, noted any new capital projects – even if funded by reserves – would be in jeopardy as there would be no new budget process to approve them and they would not be included in last year’s budget.
While this will be a bump in the road, Martin said it does not reflect the board’s opinion of West Shore Parks and Recreation. “We’re highly efficient,” he said. “I’m very proud of West Shore Parks and Recreation.”
While being forced to use the 2016 budget will have an impact, Watson added, he didn’t expect facility users would see any difference in service. “We’re (just) going to have to sharpen our pencils a bit.”
As for the owners group, he noted they are separate from the board that makes operating decisions. “There’s been talk … (but) it requires them to get into a room,” he said. “It really is up to the municipalities to come up with a solution.”