The cost of being active and the cost of being very inactive in Prince George are both going to get a little higher.
Council approved hikes to both the fees for groups using city-owned arenas and the fees for the city’s cemetery as part of 2002 budget discussions Monday.
Hourly charges for the Multiplex and other community arenas will all be going up $2 per hour, effective May 1, 2002. That brings the average hourly rate charged for ice surfaces up to $50 for youth events and $109 for adults. Dry floor rates jump to $26 for youths and $30 for adults.
Councillor Gordon Leighton headed-off complaints about the increase by pointing out that PG is still one of the least expensive places to rent space in the province.
“To the user groups inclined to complain, we are 30 to 40 per cent below the costs of Kelowna or Kamloops for comparable facilities,” he says.
Diane Rogers, manager of the city’s arenas, says the increase is small enough that Prince George remains the least expensive place to rent ice or floor time when compared to similar sized communities. But Leisure Services manager Tom Madden says the trend of increasing local rates will likely continue over the next three years.
“We could increase rates more and be at that benchmark, but we don’t think that would be right … We’re trying to find a balance,” says Rogers.
Hiking fees is expected to generate an additional $13,000 in 2002 and $25,000 in years to come. That will offset the cost of subsidizing the operation of local arenas that, on average, only return 70 per cent of their operating cost through user fees. The Multiplex alone is subsidized by almost $1 million per year over and above the user fees it collects.
While the city is taking a gradual approach to ramping-up arena fees, they’re taking a more aggressive stance when it comes to the cemetery. Cemetery fees will balloon by 50 per cent effective March 1, 2002, with a further 25 per cent increase January 1, 2003. Parks and Recreation manager Rae Roer admits that will put Prince George near the top of the province for cemetery fees for cities of similar size.
“We want to bite off the increase in one large chunk,” he says. “We have a strong desire to reduce tax subsidies to the cemetery.”
For the past two years the average cost of running the cemetery has been $220,000, with $145,000 recovered through fees. The increases would almost completely eliminate that subsidy. The cost of interring an adult resident jumps from $473 to $700, compared to $500 in Nanaimo and $420 in Kelowna.
Council also approved spending a portion of the $200,000 budgeted for cemetery improvements for further market research by parks and recreation into the development of a 150 to 400-crypt mausoleum at the PG Cemetery. According to a preliminary feasibility study, the cost of a crypt in the mausoleum could range from $8,500 to more than $20,000. Although the consultant’s report indicated a city-owned and run mausoleum would produce the greatest return for the city, councillor Gordon Leighton suggested a private venture would be better.
“I see nothing wrong with the option of a sale of the land and let the private sector do what it will.”