Peace River town council is considering rate increases to a number of community services in the 2023 budget, many of which will see an increase between four to six per cent.
“Rate increases are always a hard discussion, but the council also is required to present a balanced budget,” says Mayor Elaine Manzer.
“The revenue sources for Peace River’s operations and consequent service levels are taxes, user fees, grants, other municipal partners through Intermunicipal Agreements, and debt. The Town cost of doing business also faces the same challenges as household budgets and business budgets,” she adds.
Council was advised by administration at the December Governance and Priorities meeting that the Community Services Board had recently reviewed and discussed the fees, recommending the proposed increase.
“User fees increased in 2022 and have tended to be adjusted each year by a smaller amount than if they were only adjusted on a longer term, so realistically these community service types of rate increases increase by a small amount each year rather than big leaps every few years,” says Manzer.
“The proposed increases would come into effect once the Fees and Charges Bylaw has passed its third reading which should be in the first quarter of 2023.”
However, for groups that already have user agreements in 2023, the fees would not be changed for them until their next agreement.
The user fee increases will also change for many home services, such as home support and Meals on Wheels. Increased costs in gasoline prices, grocery prices, and utility rates have driven many items to be reviewed in the 2023 budget.
Home support services are proposed to go up by four per cent, based on the previous rates set based on monthly income. Meals on Wheels hot meals will go from $7.50 to $7.80, and frozen meals from $6 to $6.25.
“The proposed fees are in line with other municipalities’ rates,” explains Manzer.
“Peace River does review both municipalities that are geographically close to the town as well as other fees for similar services in other similarly sized towns,” she adds.
Recreational facilities will also see a four per cent increase. Administration has recommended maintaining current drop-in fees for the Baytex Energy Centre, as the rates are consistent with other local recreational facilities.
However, they have recommended all other rental rates increase.
“It is necessary for the rate increases to occur to keep the same service levels including times facilities are open for use to help pay for the costs of those operations,” says Manzer.
“These operations are not balanced between revenue from the user fees and the expenses of operation which are supplemented by other municipal revenues.”
Ice rentals, arena advertisement, dry pad rentals, field house rentals, room rentals, pool, sports fields and ball diamonds will all experience an increase.
Council directed administration to bring an Updated Fees and Charges Bylaw to Council in January for first reading after which it would be advertised to the public and user groups who can provide feedback.
The bylaw must pass second and third reading to be enforced.