The mood of Yorkton Council seems to be changing in terms of how it looks at operating the City’s recreational facilities.
For years now Council has been instructing its Administration to work toward higher levels of cost recovery from facilities.
At the top of the list was Deer Park Golf Course.
Councils have wanted the course to reach a point where it can break even.
Over the years Council has even tried to make it easier for the course, writing off some capital investment costs the course had initially planned to cover.
Even with such allowances the course had not managed to break even, and that has left past Councils pushing rates at the course higher and higher.
That was the recommendation of Administration at the regular meeting of Council Monday which if accepted would have seen rates rise yet again, an 18-hole adult round climbing from $40 to $42.
But this edition of Council was not eager to continue fee escalations in search of breaking even on operating the course.
“Do we want to keep increasing our rates if it’s not feasible for people to play?” asked Councillor James Wilson.
Mayor Bob Maloney had the same thought. He said he’s been on the course when it is almost empty of golfers. He said it was time the City needs “to do something a little different to get people back on the course.
“We need to cut our rates to get local residents back enjoying our course. It’s a City course and we need to get people out enjoying it.”
Monday Council also looked at rate increases, starting at a base three per cent per year, on city-owned recreational facilities.
While the four-year plan was accepted, Council asked Administration to come back in the fall with a closer look at the actual operating costs, so that they can get a better handle of cost-recovery at whatever level they determine appropriate.
And therein lies the greatest issue for Council, to determine what recovery level is appropriate.
There is no doubt, for example that the indoor pool will never come close to recouping operating costs. Indoor pools are noted for being costly to operate and there is no way fees could be raised high enough without out pricing itself from the public.
Council has long recognized the importance of youth programming, and so recreation rates have been lower.
That is something we can all appreciate. The more opportunities there are for youth to be active the better as active youth tend to do better in school, and get into trouble less. For most taxpayers the subsidization of youth fees is a good community investment.
It’s less obvious from a public perspective how much taxpayers should be subsidizing adults hitting a golf ball at Deer Park.
Council is right to be taking a closer look at operating costs, and what fees need to be at to recover a reasonable portion of those costs, but determining what level is reasonable will be a challenge.