Rural taxation to support Houston rec services proposed

Matter being forwarded to regional district for consideration

The District of Houston is asking the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako to consider taxing rural residents surrounding the community to help support its recreation facilities.

The move, approved by council at its Oct. 3 council meeting, follows a discussion with Rob Newell, the regional district’s director for Area G, the rural area surrounding Houston.

As to be presented to the regional district, the proposal would take in the area lying within a 25 kilometre radius of the District.

If approved, the rural contribution would apply to all District of Houston recreation services, including the Leisure Facility, arena and community hall.

Such a move would aid “the District in financing recreation services which benefit residents in both the municipality and the regional district,” a briefing document for council prepared by District of Houston chief administrative officer Gerald Pinchbeck indicated.

“Currently, a large portion of the revenue directed to leisure services is sourced from property taxation, with a minor offset from fees and charges,” the document continued.

“Adding a contribution from the regional district would offset this requirement and allow for more regular contributions to the Recreation Capital Reserve Fund.”

Additionally, Pinchbeck wrote, a contribution would “reduce the risk of residents of the rural area from being subject to higher non-resident rates for various services.”

“Although this rate was eliminated from the schedule of fees and charges for the Leisure Facility, there remain several non-resident rates for other recreation services.”

Pinchbeck noted that any money from the rural area “is not substantially large to offset other revenue sources.”

“As such, this should be deemed supplementary to existing revenue streams, and act as an offset to property tax requirements.”

A financing measure of this type would require formal approval through the regional district and require approval by rural residents either through a referendum or an alternative approval process.

The alternative approval process is regarded as a way of first finding out what voters think.

It allows residents, by signing and submitting a specific form, to indicate whether they are against a specific proposal such as one that affects taxation.

If 10 percent or more of the eligible voters indicate they are opposed, their local government may decide not to proceed or proceed only if it first obtains assent through a referendum.

The District of Houston proposal is now to be forwarded to the regional district board for further direction and that may result in regional district staffers being asked to investigate further, Pinchbeck noted.

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