How should the Cowichan Sportsplex be funded?

Ladysmith council suggests the Cowichan Sportsplex should be funded in a manner similar to the Cowichan Theatre.

Instead of making funding for the Cowichan Sportsplex a regional function, Ladysmith council would like to see the complex funded in a manner similar to the Cowichan Theatre.

Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) member municipalities and electoral areas fund the Cowichan Theatre using a model where the users living closest to the theatre pay the most toward its operation, and those living farther away pay less, Mayor Rob Hutchins explained Sept. 4 as council debated a request by the CVRD to participate in an annual financial contribution service for the Cowichan Sportsplex.

“When we fund the Cowichan Theatre, we fund it at a level that is based on concentric circles — the further out you are, the less you pay,” said Hutchins.

The Chesterfield Sports Society recently appeared as a delegation at the CVRD and updated the board of directors on the operations and “funding crisis” affecting the Cowichan Sportsplex, according to CVRD corporate secretary J.E. Barry, who wrote to council in mid-August to ask whether the town wishes to participate in an Annual Financial Contribution Service for the Sportsplex.

In response, the CVRD board passed a resolution to conduct a poll to determine which CVRD member municipalities and electoral areas are interested in participating in the service.

For the past number of years, the Town of Ladysmith has been contributing financially to the operation of the Cowichan Sportsplex through a regional grant-in-aid subsidy issued by the CVRD. All municipalities and electoral areas fund regional grants, and in 2012, all 13 jurisdictions paid $0.64 per $100,000 household, explained Barry.

To provide a greater level of funding certainty to the Chesterfield Sports Society, the CVRD board is proposing to create an Annual Financial Contribution Service. Establishing this service will eliminate the need for the Chesterfield Sports Society to request a regional grant-in-aid each year, Barry noted in his letter.

“Instead, the annual financial contribution would become a line item in each year’s budget,” he wrote. “The creation of this new service will not impose a new expense on residents in electoral area or municipalities since they are already paying to financially assist the Cowichan Sportsplex.”

The Chesterfield Sports Society has advised they will require $146,000 from the CVRD in 2013. If all 13 jurisdictions participate in this proposed service, the residential tax rate would be $0.94 per $100,000 assessment, using 2012 assessment data, explained Barry.

Ladysmith council decided to write a letter to the CVRD stating that at this time, the Town of Ladysmith declines to participate in the proposed funding model for the Cowichan Sportsplex and to request consideration by the CVRD of establishing a similar formula to the formula used to fund the Cowichan Theatre.

Coun. Gordon Horth was the only councillor to vote against the motion.

“I think we should follow the Nanaimo example and go to a two-tier system,” he said. “We have adjoining communities that take services from us in all kinds of ways, and they can pick and choose what suits them. I guess we’ve got a ways to go before the larger question about regional facilities can be answered — and I hope it gets resolved because that’s the right thing to do.

“I’m disappointed it has gone on this long.”

Hutchins, who believes the majority of the CVRD electoral areas declined to participate in the service, suggested that if there isn’t support among CVRD member municipalities to create an Annual Financial Contribution Service, the Cowichan Sportsplex will likely be considered as a grant-in-aid again next year.

“We have provided five years in grant-in-aid, two at $80,000 and our last three at $100,000,” he said. “They have an alternative.”