NB seeking help from regional neighbours to make up for losses at rec facilities

The City of North Battleford is looking for some financial help from neighbouring communities to make up for a loss of revenue at their leisure services facilities due to COVID-19.

Council has approved a resolution that the Mayor send out a letter to neighbouring regional communities, asking them to provide a portion of their COVID Safe Restart Funding to fund a one-time recreation subsidy.

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This would help cover the city’s anticipated revenue losses and expenses incurred at their regional recreation facilities.

As part of that request, the city would offer that any money would only be used to support the regional facilities and the impact from COVID-19 reduced revenues and not flow into other general city expense items; that they would offer to engage the communities with a regional COVID Recreation Board; the city would provide participating communities with a monthly financial analysis of the reduced revenues and changed expenses of the facilities; and the city would make staff available to the COVID Recreation Board for questions regarding funding utilization and facility usage.

It was also emphasized at Monday’s meeting this request was a temporary measure, and not one for ongoing support.

The resolution passed Monday night follows on the heels of the Sept. 14 council meeting as well as the Sept. 21 Planning Committee meeting where the issue was discussed.

At the Sept. 14 meeting Mayor Ryan Bater put forward the idea that regional neighbours be invited to contribute to some kind of regional reserve fund.

Bater pointed to the heavy losses at the facilities due to COVID-19 restrictions. He said at the Sept. 14 meeting those “will impact the whole region and I think that everybody, and by everybody I mean all municipalities, ought to be concerned with the sustainability of regional facilities so that they remain available for everybody within our area.”

It was also noted at that meeting that the federal money the city was getting from the Safe Restart Canada Plan wouldn’t be enough to cover the losses at those facilities.

At the Sept. 14 meeting, City Manager Randy Patrick reported the city was receiving $853,947 as its total allocation. But Patrick noted they would be losing $500,000 on the aquatic centre alone in the next 12 months. He added the city will lose about $30,000 in municipal revenue sharing in 2021, and will be down $300,000 in municipal revenue sharing the year after that.

“Between those two things, that’s all the money that was provided,” said Patrick.

Director of Leisure Services Cheryl DeNeire also noted at the Sept. 14 meeting there was a big drop in attendance in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions. In 2019, 8,256 patrons went through the aquatic centre, according to DeNeire, but this year it is 2,331 or approximately 22 percent of their 2019 attendance. That translates to only 22 percent of revenue overall.

In response to those numbers Mayor Bater made the suggestion to create the regional reserve. His argument was that while all municipalities were receiving federal restart money based on population, not every community has been hit by revenue losses the same way.

“I would argue that our city is being hit disproportionately because we happen to have regional facilities,” Bater said.

“The allocation to the city is unlikely to meet the needs that we’re going to have over the next couple of years.”

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