City staff are recommending city council consider raising the Parks Parcel Tax twice over the next three years.
The recommendation falls in-line with community feedback into the city’s Strategic Parks Plan which was conducted in 2006 but followed up on in 2012 through a public survey.
City staff are suggesting the Parks Parcel Tax, which helps pay for park improvements and new projects, be increased to $50 for 2013 and 2014 and raised again to $60 in 2016 and beyond.
The parcel tax was just $25 this year, to help offset a 13.6 per cent residential tax increase, however, since the Parks Parcel Tax was established in 2006 it has been $50 each year.
“It seems from our (survey) respondents that there’s an ongoing public willingness to dedicate funds to parks and to focus the Parks Parcel Tax on facility improvements in the medium term,” said David Reid of HB Lanarc, the consulting firm involved in the Parks Plan. “The great majority is interested in $50 or $75 a year.”
There are other options council could consider.
The Parks Parcel Tax could remain at $25 for one more year and then be increased to $50 in 2014 and each year thereafter, or council could choose to keep the parcel tax at $25 for the foreseeable future.
Reid, at a council meeting in November, recommended council set the Parks Parcel Tax at $50 for each year until 2015 when it should be raised to $60. He said that would be the only way to enable council to operate in the black without having to cut programs.
Lynn Wark, the city’s parks project supervisor, said city staff’s recommendation is based on what the public wants.
“The Parks Parcel Tax adjustment has been developed based on a thorough review of the original (parks) plan, a public consultation process and aligns with current industry trends and other city planning documents, i.e. SOCP (Sustainable Official Community Plan) and Transportation Plan,” Wark said in a report to council.
The public survey, which was self-directed and answered by 644 people, also for the public’s priorities in the parks department.
The project at the top of people’s lists was completion of Robron Park, which is expected to entail new bleachers and trails, an artificial or all-weather playing field, utilities and drainage improvements, and upgrades to the parking lots along both Merecroft and South Birch.
Waterfront improvements such as Maritime Heritage Park and the public boat ramps are also a top priority, as are the splash park and Centennial Park improvements.
Since the Parks Parcel Tax was established, the city has completed more than $7 million in projects, with $3.5 million coming from the Parks Parcel Tax and $4.2 million coming from grants and other sources.
Since 2006 when the Parks Plan was created, council has replaced 12 playgrounds and added two more, installed ten washrooms, upgraded eight ball fields, completed Dick Murphy, Larwood, and Penfield West Linear parks, improved the sand volleyball courts and added two more at the Sporstplex, built a new skate park, built the lacrosse box at Robron Park, and completed the Jubilee Trail section of the Greenways Loop.