As municipalities eye the fast-approaching budget deliberation season, staffers are taking a hard look at municipal assets and where fees for service can be adjusted to further municipal plans.
In Gananoque, council, at the recommendation of staff, has approved increases to town marina fees, in an effort to raise capital for needed improvements.
"These recommendations take into consideration the attached rate comparison with other marinas in Eastern Ontario and the current physical condition of the facility and the need for reinvestment as identified through the 2019 Dock Assessment Policy," wrote Kari Lambe, manager of community services, in her report to council.
According to Lambe the bulk of Gananoque marina users in 2020 were from out of town – 253 out-of-town users compared to 138 Gananoque and Leeds and the Thousand Islands users.
Council has approved an increase of approximately three per cent for seasonal users and five per cent for monthly, weekly and daily users.
Parking and pump-out fees will also go up by two and three per cent respectively.
According to staff the increases were calculated on a number of variables.
"In considering rates staff look at the entire needs of the operating and capital budgets and make recommendations accordingly," said Lambe, adding: "Annual rates have many variables that are considered; previous years' rates and history of increases; the rates of our comparators; anticipated expense increases (such as minimum wage, utilities, contract costs, etc.); and what capital expenditures are expected."
Staff had also recommended adding a two per cent capital improvement fee, and though council was divided on whether to apply that fee as a separate line item or whether to roll it into the increases for now, the fee is an add-on.
"The capital improvement fees will show as separate charges on all contracts with marina customers," said Lambe.
These fee increases will apply to all marina users, at least until council and staff have had a chance to study the Marina Master Plan report and have a better idea of what improvements need to be made in the long and short term.
"I requested that staff bring forward a separate rate for non-residents to be considered," said Coun. David Osmond.
"Gananoque is a world-class waterfront and residents are basically owners of the marina so I have been thinking for years that being a taxpayer should have some advantages and paying less than those that are not from Gananoque and Leeds Thousand Islands needs to be considered."
The marina is not funded through taxation, but is a separate business that contributes revenue to the town.
In 2020 marina revenues were $781,313, or 90 per cent of budget, while expenses were $477,288, or 68 per cent of budget.
According to town treasurer Melanie Kirkby, the marina in on track to underperform by $111,204 in 2020.
"The 2020 marina budget for payment to the town is $175,898. With an $111,204 shortfall, the choices are, the town accepts $64,694 or the transfer to reserves to fund capital projects is shorted by $111,204, or a compromise between the two scenarios. That decision will be made once the year-end is totalled at the end of February 2021," said Kirkby.
As to separate rates for non-residents, staff proposed adding 10 per cent to non-resident fees, but council has not yet adopted this recommendation and will wait until more information is available on capital investments, before making a final decision.
"The marina is a considerable asset but it needs upgrading and improvements, so adding a non-resident rate will allow us to increase revenue to make some of these upgrades sooner than later without hitting our own residents for the full cost," said Osmond.
Heddy Sorour, Local Journalism Initiative, Brockville Recorder and Times