Options address rural rates

Rural residents aren't paying their share of costs for city facilities

It is election time and Penticton residents should be discussing high infrastructure and operating costs in an attempt to find a consensus and resolve rural vs. city conflicts.

The rural districts through polls and referendums have had this discussion. Penticton residents own the infrastructure and we make the final decision.

Although 23 per cent of usage of our public facilities is rural; polls suggest 80 per cent are opposed to contributing to the infrastructure and operating costs.

However, Penticton families and taxpayers cannot be expected to annually subsidize rural residents with millions of tax dollars without their consent.

Despite three years of belt-tightening, financial remedies must still be found to eliminate a further $2 million deficit forecast in Penticton’s 2012 budget.

Within space limitations I shall try to cover some options:

Option 1: The city should pursue through the provincial government changes in the act to require all permanent residents of an area to support through their residential taxes the infrastructure serving that area.

Alternative: The province could pay for all public infrastructures. All taxpayers would pay. Downside: Provincial government approval for all public infrastructures.

Option 2: Apply reasoning to get the rural residents to understand their obligation to support financially the public facilities they use in their area. Option 2 is a failure.

Option 3: Add user fees for all rural residents for the use of all public facilities including our four ice rinks. No subsidization of rural would likely require a surcharge of at least $20 to $25 per usage to each rural resident: Requiring for example a rural family of four to pay a $100 surcharge for each use.

Identification would resolve transient (tourist) issues. They should not be required to pay extra.

Option 3 suggests fairness to Penticton residential taxpayers requires rural user fees share costs of operations and infrastructure for use of our public facilities.

Downside: Many rural families can ill-afford extra fees for hockey, swimming, figure skating lessons, etc. Rural families would blame Penticton instead of their rural community, which refused to support the infrastructure they needed.

Option 4: Apply to the provincial government to opt out of the RDOS and use the millions saved over the next decade to pay the cost of our public facilities. Abbotsford estimates savings at $1.4 million annually in Option 4.

We would still own the public infrastructure and could maintain control with moderate rural user fees to further ease the tax burden.

Elvena Slump