Municipal reform will affect the future of recreational user fees

·3 min read

The future of user fees became a topic of discussion during the June 14 council-in-committee meeting.

What began as an attempt by Rec Director Jill Dunnet to answer Coun. Norm Brown’s inquiry about the complicated process of creating LSD cards indicating who’s required to pay user fees grew into a broader discussion with the upcoming municipal reform as the backdrop.

With the help of Tourism Director Tobi Pirie, Dunnett explained that users of the AYR Motor Centre’s sports programs and gym apply for LSD cards to determine whether they pay users fees or not.

Residents of the Debec LSD and the Upper and Lower Southampton LSD must pay user fees since their communities voted against paying a six-cent tax levy.

Brown said the process becomes cumbersome for officials of Woodstock Minor Hockey, for example, to collect the required information of all the young players. Dunnett explained the process is the same for all town-subsidized sports, including hockey, the swim team, synchro swimming and the Woodstock Skating Club.

Pirie said the most straightforward process for families is to produce a licence, phone or electric bill or any document showing their home address.

However, she acknowledged that even running smoothly, the process is time-consuming for AYR Motor Centre staff and registering families.

“A lot of people don’t understand,” Pirie said.

She said the name of the LSD names adds to the confusion, noting that Northampton LSD residents don’t have to pay user fees while those in Upper and Lower Northampton do.

Pirie said staff spend much time explaining the process to confused residents.

Since implementing the user fees following the previous 10-year agreement with Woodstock’s surrounding LSDs, Mayor Arthur Slipp said the residents’ tax-bill addresses served as the go-to dispute resolution.

The mayor outlined the history of the user-fee issue, noting that before the last expansion of the AYR Motor Centre, residents in surrounding LSDs voted whether or not to accept a six-cent levy on their taxes.

At the time, Slipp explained, the town committed to charging user fees to residents of communities voting against the tax levy.

“We had to honour that commitment,” he said.

Slipp said the upcoming municipal reform changes the dynamics of the user-fee question.

“If we can revisit this in the future,” he said. “It would be a positive thing.”

The mayor explained that after the expanded Woodstock entity takes effect on Jan. 1, 2023, only some Debec addresses will remain outside the new entity. All others will be part of the new entity.

Slipp said the Entity 73 municipal reform advisory committee already approached the current Upper and Lower Northampton LSD chair to prepare residents that they will be paying the six-cent levy as of Jan. 1.

He said the technical committee and transition leader could tackle the issue as they begin the budget process for the new expanded entity.

“If that doesn’t happen, then we have the same problem. If they don’t pay the six cents, they have to pay the user fee,” Slipp said.

The Woodstock mayor said the 10-year agreement is nearing its expiration date, meaning a new deal would be required for AYR Motor Centre users living outside the expanded Woodstock community.

“We can discuss with other entities whether they want to create a reciprocal agreement,” Slipp said. “Or perhaps, they would work out an agreement like the town does with Woodstock First Nation, which sees them pay an annual fee to give residents access to the AYR Motor Centre facilities without users fees.

In the meantime, Pirie asked whether the town could seek options to streamline the process.

CAO Andrew Garnett said he and staff would review the process and report back to council.

Brown said he is satisfied with the decision to analyze the process.

Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, River Valley Sun

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