Rural usage of District recreation services information needed

It’s one step to determine if rural residents should be taxed

Rural residents could be asked to support District of Houston recreational facilities. (Houston Today photo)

Rural residents could be asked to support District of Houston recreational facilities. (Houston Today photo)

Determining the usage of Houston’s recreational facilities by rural residents is needed before any next steps are taken that might result in their being taxed to support those facilities.

“Once this has been established it will determine the direction to be taken,” says Rob Newell, the Bulkley Nechako regional district’s director for the rural area surrounding Houston.

His comment follows a District of Houston request to the regional district that it consider establishing a taxation plan within a 25 kilometre radius of the municipality.

Newell did add that the task of determining rural resident usage would require some work.

“I’m not sure how it would work with the arena, but for the rec centre simply recording whether a user is municipal or from the regional district,” said Newell of how to determine usage.

The proposal from the District, if approved by rural residents, would involve a property tax to support all of its recreational services, including the Leisure Facility, Claude Parish Memorial Arena and community hall.’

“Although these services provide benefits to the community at large and improve the livability of the community, they are entirely financed by the municipality,” a report on the matter to the District council indicated.

“A large portion of the revenue directed to Leisure Services is sourced from property taxation, with a minor offset from fees and charges,” the report said. “Adding a contribution from the regional district would offset this requirement and allow for more regular contributions to the Recreation Capital Reserve Fund.”

And, the report continued, rural taxation would reduce the potential for rural residents being charged more than District residents for various services.

As of this year, a higher rate for non resident users of the leisure facility was eliminated.

That was “a source of customer dissatisfaction, given that non-residents pay 25 per cent more than resident users do for the same service,” a report on District user fees published earlier this year stated.

Having rural areas share in the support of municipal services through taxation is common in the northwest.

In Houston, rural residents pay for fire department services supplied by the District of Houston.

“This extends fire protection coverage from the Houston Volunteer Fire Department to Morgan Road, parts of Buck Flats area, part of Gun Range Road and Derksen Road, the Vanderplog Rd area, and partway down Equity Mine Road and Omineca Way outside of District boundaries,” said District of Houston chief administrative officer Gerald Pinchbeck.