Campbell River council wants to avoid Robron Park borrowing referendum

It would ensure taxpayers would not have to pay back the money through a tax increase

Council is moving forward with the Robron Park improvement project and has directed city staff to look into borrowing money in a manner that would avoid a referendum.

While the strategy would not provide a chance for taxpayers to give their approval or not, it would ensure taxpayers would not have to pay back the money through a tax increase.

That’s because the borrowing would be over a shorter period of time, five years (which does not require a referendum) and the amount could be paid back through an increase to the Parks Parcel Tax, rather than general taxation. If the city borrowed the money to complete Robron Park over a 10-year period, a $50,000 referendum would be required and would be paid back likely through a tax increase. Coun. Andy Adams, who has championed the Robron Park project for several years, said the community ranked Robron as the number one parks priority in the city’s recent Strategic Parks Plan survey and he’s confident it’s a project the public wants. He also acknowledged that the city has already spent $250,000 on design plans and $700,000 from the Parks Parcel Tax to finish the project.

“I want to remind council that this was part of the parks survey that was done and the Robron Park complex that the city has already invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into,” Adams said. “If there is one question – it needs to be addressed sooner rather than later – and that is, do we want to do it or not, or do we want to just sort of drag it on. This is an opportunity to do what the community survey told us the community would like.”

But Coun. Ron Kerr wasn’t buying it.

“Number one, I don’t believe that it’s a number one priority for parks in the city and number two I don’t agree with the five-year borrowing option which avoids a referendum,” Kerr said. “And the third point is because it was turned down in a previous referendum (in 2008), and I believe it still needs the taxpayers’ approval in a referendum before I’ll support it.”

Coun. Claire Moglove, however, reiterated that Robron was identified by the public as the park the community would most like to see upgraded and said it was council’s responsibility to at least look into the possibilities.

“This report would provide council with an option for financing,” she said. “It doesn’t mean we are going ahead with it; it provides an option for funding and it will come back to council.”

With Kerr and Mayor Walter Jakeway opposed, council elected to direct city staff to report back with more information on how to finance the final two phases of Robron Park, which is expected to cost $4.9 million. The city would be short $3.3 million so council has instructed staff to look into borrowing money over five years and paying it back through an annual $200,000 Parks Parcel Tax contribution between 2014 and 2018. Council also wants staff to look into whether or not it would be possible to increase a $300,000 contribution from the Community Works Fund for the project.

Phases two and three of the project include: an artificial turf field, Merecroft and South Birch parking lot upgrades, utilities and drainage, upper walkway and lookouts, paths and trails, spectator spine/bleachers and all hard and soft landscaping.