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RDCK director unhappy with tax hike for Castlegar arena

While he agrees the project is necessary, a regional district director for rural Castlegar wants to look at other ways to pay for the arena floor replacement at the recreation complex.

Andy Davidoff, who represents Area I and is one of the five elected officials on the recreation commission, said he is unhappy the project will be funded solely by a tax increase which would also provide $600,000 toward a capital reserve to deal with other fixes at the facility.

Davidoff said last year he and then-Area J director Rick Smith offered to provide $250,000  each toward the project through their community works grants if the city would match the amounts. However, the city’s representatives on the commission declined.

At a meeting last week, he again offered $250,000, this time not contingent on anyone else’s contribution, but the rest of the commission turned him down.

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“If we have an alternative and can offset taxation, why wouldn’t we do that?” he asked. “I was surprised they voted not to accept the quarter million from Area I with no strings attached.”

Davidoff also wanted to put off raising the $600,000 for ongoing maintenance for one year, “because we’ve done a very poor job explaining it to our ratepayers. I think that’s important for us to look at, but all of us are just getting out of COVID, businesses have struggled, so I asked for the implementation of any plan to be deferred for one year.”

The rest of the commission again disagreed.

Castlegar councillor Sue Heaton-Sherstobitoff, who chairs the recreation commission, said when Davidoff made his offer last year, the city had already allocated its money. She said while the commission felt Davidoff’s latest offer was generous, they preferred to stick with the plan in their draft budget “because it’s the right way to put a reserve in place.”

“For so many years [the recreation complex] has been underfunded,” she said. “Now we have to right the wrong. We just thought we would stay with the plan we agreed to and move forth.”

Heaton-Sherstobitoff also said using grant funds would just be “plugging the holes.”

“You’re not properly taxing for your assets. So now we have an asset management plan for the facility. We’ll use the plan we approved to go forth so we’re putting money into reserves and funding the facility how it needs to be funded.”

Heaton-Sherstobitoff said she disagreed with delaying taxation for the reserve because the facility is in “dire need.” The owner of a home assessed at $500,000 can expect to pay about another $66 this year for the capital reserve. The reserve will be increased by $100,000 per year until it hits $1 million.

While it is possible grants may come through to reduce the burden on taxpayers for the arena floor project, Heaton-Sherstobitoff said they did not entertain raising user fees. User numbers have not returned to pre-COVID levels, plus there have already been two increases in recent years, she said.

She added she has received feedback from people who want to see further improvements to the rec complex, but “right now we can’t do anything because we’re so far behind. All to do with underfunding and not taxing enough over the years. It’s a huge catch-up.

“None of us take this lightly. No one ever wants to tax, but we’re at a point where if we don’t resolve what’s been happening, we might as well shut the doors.”

The total tax increase for the Castlegar area this year is expected to be around 24 per cent.

Work on the arena floor, which has a price tag of $1.44 million, began Monday and is expected to take six months.

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