Council may increase user fees at multiplex

Burns Lake's recreation department has been dealing with increasing costs

Increasing Lakeside Multiplex user fees for area B and E residents might be one of the possible actions taken by the Burns Lake council to address an increase in the recreation department’s budget.

Dooseon Jung, Director of Recreation Services, presented a report to village council on Nov. 24 outlining the increasing expenditures of the Lakeside Multiplex since it opened in May 2014.

According to the report, from 2013 to 2015 the department’s average deficit increased from $86,193 to $163,703 (excluding the ice arena).

Jung explains how in 2014 both the Lakeside Multiplex and the curling rink generated revenue for the village, with the curling rink generating $14,665 in revenue, and the Lakeside Multiplex increasing revenue from $29,287.40 to $156,149. However, as revenues increased, so did expenditures, which are mainly attributed to longer days of operation, increased maintenance and additional staff.

In the report, Jung refers to a number of potential actions in order to mitigate costs, including increasing user fees for area B and E residents and visitors.

The report also suggests the possibility of requesting a subsidy from the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN) for recreation services, which would require a public referendum.

Other options discussed included reducing multiplex hours and staff and offering the curling club back control of the curling rink. Councillor John Illes said he was surprised to learn from the report that the village has subsidized the curling club by $39,000 in 2014 and a budgeted $45,000 for 2015.

“I think the public would be surprised to learn of that amount,” he said. “That’s roughly $400 per member we’re paying.”

The report outlined the many benefits of retaining services, arguing that the services are a “public good,” that creates “fun, accessible, and creative recreation events for residents” and that many studies have demonstrated the positive impact on family’s physical and mental well-being when municipalities provide recreational opportunities.

Jung also asserted that many of the programs are already cost neutral, as they are subsidized by grants.

In closing, Jung noted that fees have already been raised by 10 per cent for users this year and any additional fee increases on patrons would have a negative impact on memberships and rentals.

Council decided to wait for more information before making any final decisions, and will discuss the matter at either the next council meeting on Dec. 8 or the next budget meeting on Dec. 15, 2015.