ANALYSIS: Do you know what you're paying for? PART TWO—Community organizations and recreation

Andrew Bennett
By Andrew Bennett
November 3rd, 2012

In response to Coun. Cary Fisher’s “shock” at a lack of budgetary awareness among city residents, here we tackle the portion of the budget that deals specifically with city funding for community organizations and facilities, parks, and recreation.

In Part One we examined the broad strokes of Rossland’s major revenue streams, and in Part Three we will look at the rest of the budget that is dedicated to running the city.

Coun. Fisher targets certain city expenses

Fisher was not shy to identify trimmable expenses, laying heavy pressure on the museum after a recent museum visioning meeting attracted 47 residents.

He said, “I’m in favour of the museum, except am I in favour of the museum when there are only 50 people in favour of the museum and there’s 3700 of us?”

Fisher also identified city funding for other community organizations, recreation, and parks as areas that are ripe for setting “new priorities” as a means to reduce taxes.

“It’s probably up to the citizens of Rossland to enlighten themselves on what it is that your tax dollar is going towards in terms of museums and libraries and parks and trail societies and Bear Aware and the Sustainability Commission, and all of the things that we work on,” he said.

Back to taxes

In 2011, Rossland’s total “general” revenue—the fund for all things other than water and sewer—amounted to about $6.4 million.

Consequently, one way to think about the big numbers below could be a percentage of that $6.4 million. But percentages can be hard to conceive as real values too, so we’ve taken another approach.

In 2011, property taxes contributed about $3.5 million, or 55 per cent, of total general revenue. About $2.3 million or 35 per cent of the 2011 general revenue came specifically from single family property tax. There were 1426 single family residences in 2011 with an average assessed value of $258,332, so paid an average of $1592 in property taxes.

Below, we reframe some of the amounts spent on community assistance in 2011 as the cost to an average single family residence per $100,000 of assessed home value.

In total, for example, community assistance, parks, recreation, and other community facilities cost the city $1,135,114 in 2011. The total cost of these items to the average single family residence was about $281 in taxes, or roughly $108 per $100,000 of assessed value.

This interpretation is likely somewhat inaccurate because funds from non-tax revenue are often conditional to particular expenses. Nevertheless we hope that sticking a rough dollar figure for the regular taxpayer will help put it in relative perspective, if not absolute perspective. A great teacher I had would often say, “Better roughly right than exactly wrong!”

City support for community organizations

Unless we mention otherwise, quoted figures below are actual 2011 expenses taken from the 2012-2016 Financial Plan.

It’s important to note that the operating budgets for the museum and other facilities listed below include “in kind” expenses. Some of these groups also contribute their own funds or volunteer labour towards maintenance when they are housed in city buildings.

For example, the museum’s operating expenses in 2011 included the “property lease and taxes,” for $900, “city equipment”, for about $600, and “water and sewer utilities” for about $600, all provided in kind by the city.

The largest portion of the museum’s budget is a city-funded operating grant of $23,000 in 2011. This was raised to $28,000 in the 2012 budget.

Museum (0.68% of 2011 revenue, or $4.20 per $100,000)
2011 Budget – $40,100
2011 Actual – $43,681
2012 Budget – $45,600

The Sustainability Commission (SC) was notable in 2011 as the only item in the budget that did not receive the full amount requested of council. Council voted against giving the full $60,000 and instead budgeted $45,000.

Sustainability Commission (0.58% of 2011 revenue, or $3.57 per $100,000)
2011 Budget – $45,000
2011 Actual – $37,123
2012 Budget – $40,000

Fisher also noted Bear Aware and the Trail Society:

Bear Aware (0.04% of 2011 revenue, or $0.25 per $100,000)
2011 Budget – $2500
2011 Actual – $2500
2012 Budget – $2500

Kootenay Columbia Trail Society (0.30% of 2011 revenue, or $1.85 per $100,000)
2011 Budget – $19,000
2011 Actual – $19,000
2012 Budget – $19,000

Some on council such as Coun. Jill Spearn have previously suggested combining the public library with the school libraries to reduce expenses.

Note that the 2011 library budget included $10,000 in building maintenance that was not done, and the 2012 budget includes $3500 in building maintenance.

Library: (1.94% of 2011 revenue, or $11.96 per $100,000)
2011 Budget – $134,000
2011 Actual – $124,723
2012 Budget – $129,500

Other organizations the city funds include the Chamber of Commerce ($41,400), the Rossland Council for Arts and Culture ($4000), Tourism Rossland ($30,000), the Heritage Commission ($1400), and Neighbourhoods of Learning ($14,000).

The city also helps operate and maintain facilities such as the Senior Citizens Hall ($1200), the swimming pool ($83,000), the tennis court ($4700), the curling rink ($27,000), and the Lions’ Campground ($2000).

Festivals include Golden City Days ($4900) and Winter Carnival ($9400).

In total, Rossland spent almost 9 per cent of it’s total general revenue on various community initiatives in 2011.

Total community assistance: (8.7% of 2011 revenue, or $53.37 per $100,000)
2011 Budget – $538,133
2011 Actual – $557,235
2012 Budget – $476,100

Parks, recreation, and other community facilities

Fisher also questioned whether cuts could be identified in the “parks” budget, which we have expanded here to include the city-supported recreation budget, and community facilities other than those mentioned above.

The budget includes City Hall and the Public Works Yard (with garage and workshop) under “facilities and parks,” but we’ve excluded them here.

For parks, we’ve combined total general park maintenance ($65,828), downtown maintenance ($40,889), and memorial benches ($2558).

Parks (1.7% of 2011 revenue, or $10.48 per $100,000)
2011 Budget – $119,200
2011 Actual – $109,275
2012 Budget – $122,700

For recreation facilities and programs we’ve included recreation administration ($95,708), recreation programming ($60,674), the Recreation Centre arena and concession ($248,775), recreation trails ($12,500), and the outdoor skating rink ($4086).

Recreation facilities and programs (6.6% of 2011 revenue, or $40.67 per $100,000)
2011 Budget – $430,700
2011 Actual – $421,743
2012 Budget – $448,519

For other facilities, we’ve excluded City Hall ($32,471) and the Works Yard ($118,987). We’ve included all the others: the Rotary Health Centre ($6790), the Maclean School Annex ($1437), the Miners’ Hall ($38,186), and general property maintenance ($448).

Additional facilities excluding City Hall and Works Yard (0.73% of 2011 revenue, or $4.50 per $100,000)
2011 Budget – $64,300
2011 Actual – $46,861
2012 Budget – $63,100

In total, parks, recreation, and facilities cost the city 9 per cent of its 2011 revenues.

Total parks, recreation, and facilities (9.0% of 2011 revenue, or $59.96 per $100,000)
2011 Budget – $614,200
2011 Actual – $577,879
2012 Budget – $634,319

Coming up…

Part Three of this series will pull it all together. We’ll look at the city’s main expenses to function as a municipality, from administration and planning to public works.

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