Council votes to implement fee for non-residents who use recreation facilities

Herald file photo

Non-residents will have to pay a $150 fee to use indoor City of Prince Albert facilities and a $75 fee to use outdoor City facilities following the passing of two motions on the final day of budget meetings.

Council also passed a motion giving Prince Albert residents early registration to book swimming lessons. Both motions are subject to review by Administration, with the goal of implementing them in 2024.

Mayor Greg Dionne said the City maintains and operates several first class recreation centres and community clubs, which are paid for by Prince Albert taxpayers.

“We have attempted to work with the RMs in the past to discuss funding support for recreation facilities that their residents benefit from,” Dionne said in a press release. “Unfortunately, we did not receive a commitment so we are pursuing other options to protect the interests of our taxpayers who fund these facilities.”

Dionne said the City remains open to discussions with surrounding RMs if they are interested.

Budget meetings wrapped up late Thursday afternoon following a full day of meetings on Wednesday. The Daily Herald attempted to contact Reeves from the RM of Prince Albert and RM of Buckland following Thursday’s meeting, but were unsuccessful.

The City of Prince Albert pays roughly $6.58 million on recreation facilities and programming. That includes Alfred Jenkins Field House, the Art Hauser Centre, Frank J. Dunn Pool, the Kinsmen Water Park, and the Prince Albert Golf and Curling Centre.

“These are important services that families rely on, but they come at a cost and the operation is subsidized by Prince Albert taxpayers,” Dionne said.

Thursday’s budget meetings ended with a $2.55 million spending increase. That was down from the recommended $4.4 million increase proposed on Wednesday.

Prince Albert City Manager Sherry Person said the City faces serious financial pressures, with salaries, wages, and benefits being a major driver of costs. The City will spend roughly $2.5 million on those items in 2024. That includes a three per cent CUPE wage increase, and a 2.9 per cent council wage increase.

“These expenses are fixed and therefore create real challenges for Administration when proposing a budget that balances the need for growth, investment and improvement and keeping tax rates to a minimum,” Person said in a press release.

The City will spend roughly 29 per cent of its total budget on policing and security. That includes $759,000 in additional spending to implement 45 recommendations made in an independent review completed earlier this year.

The City has also received approval for a Federal Building Safer Communities grant, which will allow them to hire a new wellness coordinator who can assist in addressing social issues.

“Cities are facing a crisis when it comes to homelessness, policing and social issues.  We are simply not supported enough and particularly in Prince Albert where we face unique circumstances,” Dionne said. “We continue to work with the provincial government to discuss what options are available to increase support.”

The 2024 budget also includes $4.4 million for the City’s annual paving program, an additional $150,000 to replace the Midtown Community Club Centre Playground and Spray Park, and $60,000 to rebuild park pathways at Midtown Playground, Cook Drive, Lake Estates, and AC Howard Park.

Budget recommendations will be forwarded to a December council meeting for final approval.