Approximately 25 residents turned up at the Kaleden Community Hall on March 12 to witness the Kaleden Recreation Commission’s Annual General Meeting.
A topic occupying high priority in the minds of several of those in attendance was the issue of Kal Rec’s skyrocketing budget requisition for 2013, which will see the recreation budget increase from $58,000 in 2012 to $128,000 this year (working out to an additional average of $69.80 for each taxpayer – some will pay more).
Kal Rec Treasurer Paul Chahil fielded several questions from residents who questioned the increase. Citing capital investment and wages as the main drivers behind the higher taxes, Chahil explained that an opportunity for 50/50 funding this year necessitated a budget request for $40,000, although at this time there is no guarantee the 50 per cent federally funded portion will be made available.
The commission also acquired maintenance responsibilities for three road ends along the Kaleden lakeshore, which necessistated an addition of $5,000 to the maintenance budget.
Chahil noted a $16,000 increase in wages, explaining that there was a perception that the park was not being maintained as well as it should.
Commission members further justified the budget increases, suggesting that the kitchen was not up to modern specifications for a community kitchen and could be shut down at any time. It was also noted that a lack of community volunteers offering help was straining the resources of the hard working commission members.
A series of questions from one of the residents on hand revealed that the hall had earned $6,426 in rental revenue in 2012. Apparently, a few groups declined the use of the hall because of a lack of adequate kitchen facitlities, but local caterers assured Kal Rec that with an adequate kitchen, there would be more rental opportunities.
Director in charge of hall rentals, John Haygarth, said that “maybe four or five more weddings could be booked” (at $500 apiece) annually with a revamped kitchen.It was also noted that most wedding parties came from the prairie provinces in the summertime.
Other residents also commented on the excessive tax increase, noting that Kal Rec’s explanation of the increase as being no more significant than “ a dinner at a local restaurant” did not exactly tell the whole story.
“You’re asking for another $70 – if the fire department or the irrigation district suddenly decided they needed that kind of money, it would add up,” said one resident.
Another resident said that the money for hall upgrades should be saved over several budgets rather than taken in one .
Chahil explained that the money was needed to provide matching funding should federal money become available.
Other questions centred on Kal Rec’s newly acquired responsibilities for the road ends, with one resident noting that maintenance responsibilities were the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s, not Kal Rec’s. Area “D” Alternate Director Tom Styffe explained that encroachment and legal issues surrounding similar road ends on the east side of Skaha Lake were the reasons driving the regional district’s acquisition of the road ends in Kaleden.
Residents also wanted to know why the commission was budgetting an additional $16,000 for wages.
“What are we getting for the extra $16,000?” asked one resident, “Are the employment positions being tendered so that any qualified Kaleden resident has an opportunity for employment?”
There would be more staff hours provided to maintain the park property this year, in addition to maintaining the road ends. Kaleden residents are currently employed by Kal Rec, Chair Gail Owen answered.
Most of those at the meeting appeared to be content with the expenditures, with several residents commending the commission for their hard work.
“ Seventy dollars a year – I would gladly pay more to have the park we have here in Kaleden,” commented one resident.
The road ends issue remains contentious, as many Alder Avenue residents do not favour Kal Rec plans to manage them, said Alder Avenue resident Sue Kelly following the meeting.
“We feel a community meeting should have been called to discuss the issue,” she added.
Kelly also noted that the budget also included the purchase of round tables at a cost of $5,000.
“Presumably for wedding rentals,” she said, “an additional four or five weddings per year – and there are only so many weekends available for rental, would only generate an additional 2,000 to 2,500 dollars – a far cry from justifying spending all this money for Albertans to get married in the hall.” Kelly observed that locally, residents tended to use Linden Gardens, the 1912, or their own yards.
“This is a parks and rec commission – not a wedding rental commission,” she added.
“I’m frustrated, I guess you could say,” admitted Kaleden resident Len Bzdel, who first protested the commission’s budget at the Okangan Falls town hall meeting on Tuesday, February 5. “When are these organizations going to live within their budgets?” Bzdel felt that Kal Rec should be accumulating reserve funding and pursuing grant funding to pay for the upgrades. He also noted that in past years, parks maintenance had been well managed by a single employee, who did not need additional hours to keep the park maintained.
Area “D” Director Tom Siddon, who was not present at the meeting, was unavailable for comment by presstime. Alternate Tom Styffe said, following the meeting that he was pleased that Kal Rec had allowed for sufficient funding to take advantage of future grant opportunities to renovate the kitchen in the hall, and bring it up to code.
“Both Director Siddon and I agree that although tremendous volunteer effort has been used for park maintenance in the past, additional funding for the hiring of local students during the summer months will truly be an asset,” he added.
The regional district budget is currently at third reading, with the directors last scheduled meeting on March 21. The document must be approved by March 31.