A $400,000-plus shortfall in recreation revenues ignited a Red Deer city council debate about whether services should be cut or fees increased.
The outcome is a three per cent fee hike as of Sept. 1 at seven city recreation facilities.
These include adult admissions to the Collicutt Centre (going up to $9.25 from $9), the Recreation Centre ($5.40 from the current $5.25) and Dawe Centre ($6.45 from $6.25).
Fees will also be rising at the Michener Centre, Servus Arena, Kinex Arena and Kinsmen Arena. Child, youth and senior rates will go up accordingly. Council heard these admissions were last raised in 2015.
Admission passes, which were just increased this past September, will remain frozen in 2019.
The fiscal impact is a gain of $35,072 for the city’s recreation, park and culture department. This doesn’t come close to making up for $404,620 in losses largely resulting from fewer people paying full fees to use the facilities.
City manager Craig Curtis told councillors that facility usage continues to be steady, but more people now qualify for subsidies because their income has been affected by the recession.
Council approved an ongoing budget item of $304,620 to cover this shortfall, as well as a one-time payment of $100,000 in 2019. Mayor Tara Veer said this indicates optimism that the economy will turn around and the future shortfall will shrink as employment picks up.
Coun. Vesna Higham suggested recreation facility managers consider cutting less popular programs or reducing staff requirements. But this wasn’t supported by the rest of council.
Coun. Frank Wong said cutting the work hours of people who already largely earn minimum wage “doesn’t help anyone.”
Council instead is considering a so-called value for dollars audit on all programs.