Charging a higher rate for using the city’s recreational facilities hardly seems like a neighbourly thing to do. But Penticton council was left with little choice when they approved a two-tiered fee structure earlier this week.
Under the proposal, which still needs to have items such as pricing ironed out, those living in areas outside the city boundaries will have to pay more to use the Penticton Community Centre and pool, McLaren Arena and Cleland Community Theatre.
The move is the culmination of years of effort to get elected officials from areas such as Naramata, Kaleden, Okanagan Falls and others on the outskirts of the city’s boundaries to chip in money for facilities their residents use. But those regional officials clearly indicated they are not interested in cost-sharing for the facilities.
The decision was not an easy one for council, eventually supporting it in a 4-3 vote. And those dissenting raised some very valid points, expressing concerns about enforcement headaches, depriving children from the use of the facilities and suggesting the revenue should come from all users equally.
The problem is the costs aren’t being shared equally. Penticton taxpayers are being asked to subsidize the usage of the facility for those outside the city’s boundaries. Estimates suggest that 23 per cent of those using the facilities live outside the city, benefiting to the tune of $1.4 million in the annual net cost for those operations.
That’s money coming out of the pockets of Penticton residents, either through increased property taxes or passed along in higher rents. Money that otherwise might have been used to take their own children for a swim or enjoy a night out at the Cleland.
It’s always nice to have the neighbours over to visit. But sooner or later, it would be nice to have someone else pick up the tab.