Angst over potential Parks & Rec cuts discussed

Parks, Recreation & Culture Director Kerry Dawson (right) explains her department's budget as Sonia Cinelli (left) and Counsellor Tony Scarcella, chairman of the City's Parks, Recreation and Culture Committee look on. Dawson explained the difficulties facing her department at a public meeting prompted by concerns from Cinelli's Stop The Cuts Facebook group. David F. Rooney photo

By David F. Rooney

Public angst over potential cuts to hours and service at the City’s Parks, Recreation and Culture facilities brought out a small crowd of concerned representatives from local user groups to a public meeting Monday.

The department is under orders to suggest ways to cut its budget by five per cent — 2.5 per cent this year and next — and those orders fuelled a wave of concern throughout the community last week.

Dawson explained that the department had a budget of  $1,763,110 in 2010 and a 2.5 per cent cut represents about $44,077.75. A breakdown looks like this:

Budget                       Actual                      Over/Under

Aquatic Centre

Revenue                         $303,800                  $318,592                  $14,793 +

Expenditures                $717,000                   $756,726                  $24.933 –

Community Centre

Revenue                          $204,750                   $227,210                  $22,460

Expenditures                 $447,300                   $515,604                  $68,304


Revenue                          $121,400                     $102,630                 $18,769

Expenditures                 $351,400                     $400,323                 $48,923

In addition, the department spends $110,550 to subsidize the a number of other operations including the Revelstoke Museum & Archives and Williamsons Lake.

There is no question that the department’s budget is tight and both Dawson and Council are eager to find ways to ameliorate the impact budget cuts will have on programs and services, hence the meeting at the Community Centre on Monday night.

A number of suggestions were made at the meeting by atttendees. Among their suggestions:

  • Find a way to generate revenue from tourists who are currently given free passes purchased for about $1,300 each by hotels, motels and campgrounds. People at the meeting object to the free passes, saying that they are actually dictating the amount of pool time available to local users.
  • Eliminate free passes given to Community Connections for low-income families and individuals. It was suggested that local service organizations handle that aspect of it.
  • The City was urged to approach the Accommodation Association about acquiring a portion of the hotel tax to offset the cost of pool use by visitors.

Again and again Dawson told attendees at the meeting that service cuts are — at this point — only possible.

“Nothing is carved in stone,” she said.

And that’s the case for the municipal budget in general. Council is close to issuing a preliminary budget for public comment. This could happen as early as Tuesday. Once the preliminary budget is issued members of the public will have 30 days to comment on it. Council will then decide what changes — if any — it should make to the budget.

Certainly, the comments and suggestions made at Monday evening’s meeting could have an impact on the budget. Sonia Cinelli, the local woman whose Stop The Cuts Facebook page generated a lot of concern, will be speaking at Council’s Tuesday afternoon meeting at 3:30 pm. She will be presenting the suggestions made at Monday’s evening.