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Saint John approves rec facility rate hike

By Brad Perry Feb 13, 2024 | 6:45 AM

Residents will pay more to rent a field, arena floor, or tennis court during the upcoming year in Saint John.

Council voted in favour of a staff recommendation last week to raise the rates by three per cent.

But some councillors around the horseshoe were pushing to keep the rates frozen this year.

Coun. Brent Harris said he wanted a pause until an ongoing review of the city’s recreation subsidization policy is complete.

“With the rising cost of just about everything, the rising demand that exists for P.R.O. Kids, I can’t in good conscience increase the rate that we charge to users,” Harris said after introducing his motion.

City staff said a review of the policy is needed to make an “informed adjustment” to the formula to determine how recreation facility rates are calculated.

Staff began working with a consulting firm in November to review the policy, which is set to be completed by June.

Council had approved recreation subsidization policies in December 2019 which were designed to create a balance between individual user fees and taxpayer investment.

Once the policies are fully implemented, youth would be subsidized at 40 per cent, seniors at 30 per cent, and adults at 10 per cent.

“While the arena rates at full implementation are comparable with other local facilities, the youth rates for fields are out of scope for the environment,” said a previous staff report.

“The hourly rate that would need to be charged on the B Level fields for youth are not comparable in nature to other local facilities and are unrealistically high for not-for-profit groups to absorb.”

Common Council approved a three per cent rate hike across the board in 2023 as well, despite an initial staff recommendation calling for rates to be frozen again.

Coun. Gary Sullivan said he believes the three per cent increase approved for the 2024 season is reasonable.

“I don’t think we can get to a place where we politically freeze rates, freeze rates, freeze rates, and then have to pay the piper down the road and it’s a 20 or 25 per cent increase because we didn’t at least keep up with inflation,” said Sullivan.

According to a staff report, the increased rates are expected to generate an extra $6,000 in revenue for the city.

Coun. Paula Radwan, who supported Harris’ motion to freeze rates, said she is worried about the impact on low-income families.

“Three per cent might not seem like a lot in the grand scheme of things, but to some households, it’s everything,” said Radwan.

Coun. David Hickey said no one wants to see a rate hike, but he thinks it is reasonable to expect “modest” increases like this.

With the three per cent increase, hourly rates will increase by between 18 cents and $2.99, according to staff.

Field, arena floor, and tennis court rental rates in Saint John for 2024, compared to the 2023 rates. Image: City of Saint John