Strathcona Gardens fee hike floated

Fees increased four per cent over the past six years but have not gone up since the 2009/2010 season

Admission fees at Strathcona Gardens may be going up Sept. 1.

The Strathcona Gardens Commission has been looking at ways to close the gap between how much money the facility is making and the cost of operations.

Tom Yates, acting chief administrative officer of the Strathcona Regional District, said the facility is due for a rate increase.

“Strathcona Gardens rates are generally below average for most categories in comparison to the other facilities evaluated,” Yates said in a report to the Strathcona Gardens Commission. “This is likely due to the fact that incremental changes in the fee structure have not taken place on a regular systematic basis.”

Fees increased four per cent over the past six years but have not gone up since the 2009/2010 season when fees were raised by two per cent. Fees also went up two per cent in 2008/2009.

The commission voted in favour of increasing fees by five per cent starting Sept. 1.

That decision will still have to go before the Strathcona Regional District Board to be passed in the form of a bylaw before the changes officially take effect.

Rounded to the nearest quarter, that means rates for adults would rise from the current $5.50 to $5.75; for seniors the current $4 cost would go up to $4.25; the teen/student price would rise from $3.75 to $4; the child price would increase from $2.75 to $3; and the family rate would go from $11 to $11.50.

Average prices on the Island are as follows: adults ($5.83), seniors ($4.37), teens ($4.14), children ($3.05), and family ($12.13).

Josie Rohne, Strathcona Gardens manager, noted that even with the increase, Campbell River’s prices would still be below the Island average.

Still, the proposed rate increase comes just one month after at least one Campbell River resident complained that Strathcona Gardens did not lower its prices to reflect the removal of the Harmonized Sales Tax in April.

“Strathcona district is virtually collecting an extra seven per cent since April 1, 2013,” wrote one complainant to the regional district. “When do you plan to advise the citizens of Strathcona district of the seven per cent increase? Seems like a cash grab.”

At the time, Yates said the fee is tax inclusive and the amount paid by the customer is a fixed amount and independent of the tax regime in place.

One month later and the regional district wants to alter those fixed amounts.

Rohne said if prices do not go up, the cost of operations will have to be covered in some other way, namely, taxes.

“In the absence of fee increases the shortfall in operating revenue must be covered by increases in property taxation throughout Campbell River and electoral Area D (Oyster Bay-Buttle Lake),” Rohne said. “The need for adjustments in the user fees may be influenced by a variety of factors including annual cost inflation as reflected in wages, utilities, goods and services.”

In that vein, commissioners also requested regional district staff prepare a report on cost of living adjustments for fees and charges for the commission to consider.