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Pool fee increases approved

By: Grant Burr

Posted: 02/6/2019 11:00 AM

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A hop in the pool will require a deeper dive into your wallet in April.

Steinbach city council gave its official approval to Steinbach Aquatic Centre public swim fee increases, the first since 2008 at the city pool.

Adults will pay $7.50, seniors (age 60 and over) will pay $7, youth (ages 8-17) will pay $6.50, children (ages 3-7) will pay $5. Previously the pool offered a flat rate of $6.50 for all users over age 6 and free admission for children age 5 and under.

The new revenue is expected to generate $78,000.

City manager Troy Warkentin reminded council on Tuesday that no clear direction had been determined at council’s January discussions when it came to the rates for seniors. Suggestions at that meeting had included the idea of making the senior and youth rates the same.

However, there was no further discussion of the fee details on Tuesday night and the initial city administration proposal was authorized with the $7 fee for seniors intact.

Councillor Damian Penner introduced a motion for the increases to be approved, noting more revenue was needed to address the pool’s operating deficit. Though the facility has operated in years past with a target of 66 percent cost recovery, Penner said this year it is anticipated to recoup only 58 percent of its expenses.

Budgeted expenditures in 2019 were forecast at $1.84 million in last year’s budget, while revenues were expected to total $1.03 million.

"That’s slowly been slipping away," Penner said regarding the cost recovery model, "Whether it be from extra staffing fees or increasing in maintenance on the aquatic centre."

The move shifts costs off taxpayers onto pool users, Penner added.

He agreed that the plan has not been without some opposition.

"Anytime there is an added fee or you’re expanding your fees to a larger demographic there’s going to be a little bit of push back," he noted, "but it is something that we need to focus on-keeping our aquatic centre sustainable for the future."

That means making younger residents pay too, he acknowledged.

"They are also still part of the ratio of lifeguards needed and detracting from the capacity we are able to have in the aquatic centre."

Mayor Earl Funk said he too has received a mixed response to the proposed changes which were finalized Tuesday.

"When they understand the losses that we are experiencing there, then they see it makes sense," he maintained.

"Without having any increases over the last 10 years, it has gone from user pay to taxpayer subsidized. So we’re trying to turn that around," he said, adding that the pool entry costs remain on the low end of comparative pools around the province.

The new fees will take effect on April 1.

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