New user fees in the works

Council will vote tonight on whether to adopt a new user fee schedule that will account for about $180,000 in extra revenue to help cover the town’s 2004 budget deficit.
Coun. Rick Wiedenhoeft said a “tremendous amount” of work by council and management has gone into revising the user fee schedule, and that he feels the fees—aimed to recover 70 percent of operating costs—are “fair” and in line with other municipalities of comparable size.
“No one wants to see high user fees,” he noted. “When I was athletic director [at Fort High], I was very much against them. They discriminate against the less financially- capable people.”^But Coun. Wiedenhoeft noted that while user fees shouldn’t stand in the way of education, when it comes to town-owned facilities, the municipality must be responsible for itself.
In most cases, he added, user fees are a means to recover costs from those who actually use the services without having to make all taxpayers pay for them.
The bylaw sees changes across the board, from business licences and building permits to rates at the Memorial Sports Centre and day care, he remarked.
For instance, ice surface rentals for youth at the arena will rise from $64 an hour for residents ($72 for non-residents) to $80 and $96, respectively.
Child care rates for residents for a full day (four hours or more) will rise from $28.95 for the first child—and $17.35 for the second child and each one after that—to $30.40 and $18.20, respectively.
Sewer and water rates will increase by 23 percent for residents.
The current combined monthly rate of $44.25 will go up to $54.44.
All costs at the cemetery will go up at least 20 percent. In one case, special care, where the town plants flowers on grave sites annually, the rate will skyrocket from $825 to $2,000.
Tipping fees at the dump will increase from $38 a tonne to $45.50.
All business licences have been standardized at $35, with the exception of taxi and limo drivers, peddlers, installers of insulation, newspaper and magazines, amusement parks, transient traders, and wholesale fruit and vegetable merchants.
“I don’t necessarily think it [the user fee schedule] will be written in stone,” remarked Coun.
Wiedenhoeft, adding public response may result in future amendments.
Coun. Wiedenhoeft noted the new user fee schedule is projected to recover about $180,000 in costs to the town annually, but admitted this amount may be lower if usage drops off due to changes in the rates.
Coun. Wiedenhoeft acknowledged the money from the new user fees only account for a relatively small amount of the total budget shortfall of $2.7 million— and that council’s work is not yet over.
Council will vote on a bylaw to adopt the user fee schedule at tonight’s meeting. With the exception of the rate changes for cemeteries, which must be approved by the province, and some at the Memorial Sports Centre, the new user fees will take effect tomorrow if passed.
In relation to the new user fee schedule, there also will a presentation tonight by a member of the Cyclone Swim Club regarding proposed user fee increases at the Memorial Sports Centre.
The committee of the whole will meet first in-camera at 5:30 p.m.
downstairs at the Civic Centre, but then open to the public by about 6 p.m. in Council Chambers.
This will be followed by a special public meeting at 7 p.m. regarding a zoning bylaw amendment for property at 1305 Mill Rd. This land is to be used for a new church.
Council then is expected to hold its regular meeting from 7:15-7:45 p.m.
Other business at tonight’s meeting will include:
•a request from the Rainy River District School Board regarding the provision of a handicapped parking stall at J.W. Walker School;
•a letter from concerned citizens regarding the proposed skate park; and
•a nomination request from the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association for two representatives on the Ontario District Health Council.
Business at tonight’s committee of the whole meeting will include:
•photocopy leases for the Memorial Sports Centre, Children’s Complex, and museum;
•terms of reference for the Traffic Safety and Public Transportation Committee;
•information regarding the Rainycrest Home for the Aged funding formula;
•information regarding the proposed Kiwanis skate park;
•information regarding the “Communities in Bloom” program;
•the 2003 year-end recycling report; and
•the 2002 annual compliance report and 2003 Schedule 22 compliance summary report for the town’s Operations and Facilities division.