Cowichan residents will be voting on a usage-based funding model for nine regionally significant recreation facilities in a regional referendum that will be held during the municipal elections on Oct. 15.
For decades, the Cowichan Valley Regional District and its municipal partners have been trying to develop an equitable funding model for taxpayers for recreation services in the Cowichan region.
Currently, there are nine recreation facilities within the CVRD that have been identified as regionally significant that are owned and operated by different jurisdictions, and funded inequitably by different tax payers within the region.
They include the Cowichan Aquatic Centre, Cowichan Community Centre, Cowichan Lake Sports Arena, Cowichan Performing Arts Centre, Cowichan Sportsplex, Ladysmith Frank Jameson Community Centre, Fuller Lake Arena, Kerry Park Recreation Centre and the Shawnigan Lake Community Centre.
After seven years of extensive research, the CVRD board has adopted a preferred funding model based on facility usage to propose to Cowichan voters.
For example, currently only a few jurisdictions pay for the Cowichan Community Centre, but residents from all jurisdictions in the region use the facility either a little or a lot.
Under the new model, each jurisdiction would pay an amount based on how much they use the facility.
The usage for this funding model is based on regular data-collection survey cycles at each of the nine regionally significant recreation facilities.
If this usage-based funding model is adopted at the polls in October, a facility usage study will be conducted every five years and form the baseline for an ongoing, rolling average based on the most recent three data-collection cycles.
“It’s taken a long time and a great deal of work to arrive at this moment with a solution to ensure that these public facilities are funded fairly through tax dollars collected from the communities who benefit from them,” said Lori Iannidinardo, chair of the CVRD.
“We hope all residents in the region will take some time to review the project site and background materials so they understand how this new usage-based funding model will impact them personally, and be able to make a meaningful decision when going to the election polls in October.”
John Elzinga, general manager of community services for the CVRD, said that after nearly 30 years of working with recreation facilities in the Cowichan region, it is heartening to see a funding model that resolves many longstanding issues and provides certainty for fair funding in the future.
“Given the long history of this issue and complexity of the funding formula, we’ve put a great deal of effort into communications for regional residents, and encourage everyone to check out the project site where they can learn more about it prior to participating in the regional referendum in October,” he said.
The Plan Your Cowichan project site includes a wealth of background information, including the recreation usage studies, FAQs, and information about upcoming virtual public-information meetings.
Regional residents can also expect to see local government staff at farmers markets and other public events throughout the month of September where they will be providing information and answering questions related to the referendum.