Regional District hosts public meeting on possible taxable service to support Valemount Curling Club

Dianne St. Jean
Regional District hosts public meeting on possible taxable service to support Valemount Curling Club
Dianne St. Jean photo

There wasn’t a large public attendance at the meeting of the Steering Committee’s presentation on what should be done in regards to the Valemount Curling Club, but it appears that there were just enough voices to raise concerns over the proposals.

On the evening of May 8 a public meeting, hosted by the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George (RDFFG), was held at the Valemount Community Hall to present the public with decisions made by the Steering Committee concerning the fate of the Curling Club facility.

Representing the RDFFG was Meredith Burmaster, Community Services leader who led the presentation, and Area H representative Dannielle Alan.

Steering Committee members representing the Curling Club who also presented included Korie Marshall and Diana Smith. There were also other members from the Curling Club in attendance in the audience. Village of Valemount Mayor Jeannette Townsend also attended.

The evening began with Burmaster giving a quick overview.

“I’m going to talk briefly on the Curling Club’s current situation and how the Curling Club came to the Regional District asking for assistance, wanting us to look at the feasibility of establishing a service for looking at the operating costs of a facility and possible capital costs,” said Burmaster.

 

Regional District hosts public meeting on possible taxable service to support Valemount Curling Club
Dianne St. Jean photo
The process

Burmaster explained that the Regional District becomes involved at the request of community groups that are looking into the feasibility of establishing a taxable service to fund certain services.

At that point, says Burmaster, a Steering Committee is formed, consisting of Regional District staff, representatives from the community, and other local governmental and group representatives within the electoral area.

The Steering Committee considers options for the service and ultimately decides on a game plan for the option that they feel is best suited and the most financially sound for the community.

Feasibility study results are then presented to the public for feedback and then brought to the Regional District Board for consideration.

“It’s usually at that point that the Board may be asked to support the development of service and loan authorization bylaws which set the tax requisition limits and borrowing limits,” explains Burmaster. “These bylaws are the foundation of the service and what eligible voters would be asked to vote on if a referendum were to occur to vote on establishing a service.”

The Feasibility Study is meant to identify both the challenges and the benefits of, in this case, the Curling Club facility, what needs to be considered in how the facility should be operated, and what costs are involved for operational and capital expenditures, what property should be included in the service area that would be taxed for the service, and the financial impact to taxpayers.

 

Valemount Curling Club background

The Curling Club was built primarily with grant funding and the hard work of volunteers. The building sits on property owned by the Village of Valemount and is leased to the Curling Club with a 30-year lease that expires in 2040. Currently the Club operates the facility and is funded by revenue from events, membership and fundraising.

The challenges they are facing, and the reason for the request of the Feasibility Study is that the ice plant is 60 years old, is inefficient and in need of replacement. A building assessment was conducted and it was found that although the building is structurally sound there are deficiencies that need to be fixed to bring the design principles up to Code.

Also, annual operating expenses are getting larger and larger each year, especially the cost of utilities.

 

The Steering Committee’s decision

After looking into several different options, the Committee’s final recommendation is the establishment of a taxable service where the Regional District would own the facility, meaning they would have to take ownership of the land from the Village of Valemount, and an annual contributory grant would be given to the Curling Club who would be responsible for all operational costs and aspects of the facility.

Burmaster explained that a contributory grant is where the Club would ask for funds annually from the Regional District to operate the facility, but the Regional District would not be involved in the actual operation of the facility.

With the funding the failing ice plant would be replaced by a Freon-based stand-alone ice plant. The building deficiencies would be repaired and safety issues would be fixed.

 

So who would pay for this taxable service?

The Committee has decided that the proposed service area is the same as the service area that supports the Canoe Valley Recreation Centre. Burmaster noted that according to the map, all properties within the service area would be subject to taxation for the Curling Club service.

According to the proposal, the residential tax rate would be $13.40 for every 100,000 of taxable land and improvements, which translates to roughly 13 cents per 1,000 of assessments. Those classified as businesses, however, would be taxed nearly three times as much at 33 cents.

During her presentation, Korie Marshall stated that the Club members agree with the Steering Committee’s recommendations. 

“We know it will mean an increase in property taxes,” said Marshall, “and we know that it’s difficult to ask, and that’s why we’ve been working to lowering the costs including securing over $60,000 in grants.

“It’s not just a curling rink. We see it as the center of the community, a natural extension of what’s available in this area.

"Over the last few years the Club’s been working to make the facility more useful and accessible to the entire community. Our location is ideal, we’re right next to the skating rink, the community hall, and the child care facility, next to the elementary school and the Sportsplex.

“Outside the curling season we have one of the largest indoor spaces in the community. With recent grant money we’ve purchased tables and chairs for up to 250 people so that we can host various celebrations…”

 

Public response

After the presentations, questions by the public were open to the floor. Nicky Forman was the first to speak, specifically requesting answers regarding operating and budgeting costs including what type of revenue the Curling Club brings in of its own from things such as events or membership fees, which were not listed in the presentation. Currently Club membership is $100 per person per year, an amount that some felt is too low in relation to sustainability costs.

There was also a question about the grants, whether they would be guaranteed every year.

“No, that’s grants that we’ve worked this year towards some of the issues that were identified in the Feasibility Study and the engineering report,” Burmaster responded. 

“So that $60,000, we’ll not be counting on it ever again?” Forman asked.

“That money was for specific improvements, so it may or may not – it depends on if there’s other grants for other improvements, but that $60,000 was spent on specific improvements that will not re-occur,” answered Burmaster.

The basic concern coming from the public regarding placing the Curling Club as a taxable service, was that there is no guarantee as to the level of taxation taxpayers may have to shoulder should the Club be unable to maintain the facility of its own accord in the future.

“My concern is that this is just an easy way of offloading your costs – just put it on the property owners,” continued Forman. “A lot of the revenue that you say you’ll have is in direct competition with this Community Hall. They’re going to have a lot more competition by the private businesses, there’s going to be hotels built, vying for those weddings and other events, so the cost of the curling rink is going to continue to escalate and become the property tax owners’ problems.”

Another question from the public was whether taxes would go up just for those living in the Village, or would it include those in the Regional District. The answer is that taxes would go up for both.

Bob Gray, who lives in Tete Jaune made a comment that he already pays for a lot of community things (i.e. sports and community facilities) “... but with all the taxes I pay for I don’t have fire protection. So you’re asking me to increase my tax burden when I don’t even have what I consider the basics.”

Nicky Forman then asked how she could go about submitting her concerns in writing.

“This is different than a development issue where you can give a written submission,” answered Burmaster. “The only next opportunity is the referendum if it gets to that point – we’ll be finding that out on the 18th – that’s when we’ll be asking if we can develop a service and authorization bylaws, that’s what triggers the process toward a referendum.”

“That’s not really fair to us,” responded Forman, “to not have a rebuttle to this. We need to have as much publicity from the people who are against it. We have to have another forum or something.”

Mayor Townsend then asked when the cutoff is to submit something to the Regional District for the next Board meeting agenda.

“It’s actually today,” said Burmaster. “But there’s a monthly board meeting and all these steps that lead up to the referendum, there’s opportunity to submit a letter to any of the upcoming meetings.”

“What are the options if it doesn’t get funding?” asked Rene Nunweiler. “The volunteers are at their wit’s end to make it work – if they can’t get this taxation based funding what can they do?”

Other questions that need to be answered include if the taxation is going to cost those with both residence and business, and in the case of more than one property or business owner, such as partners or spouses, does just one or both pay?

 

Next steps

The Feasibility Study will be presented at the next Regional Board meeting (on May 18 in McBride), and the Steering Committee will be asking if service establishment and loan authorization bylaws can be prepared for the Board’s consideration at a future meeting.

There are implications of a referendum, possibly in the fall, in which case they would have to return in order to discuss voter eligibility, and the bylaws that would have to be voted on.

According to Korie Marshall, they will be looking at how they can address the questions and concerns from the May 8 meeting over the next few weeks.  u