RDN parks and trails funding service review completed

RDN parks and trails funding service review completed

Board not quick to adopt solution to make funding allocations fair

The Regional District of Nanaimo has had its regional parks and trails service funding allocation reviewed to determine if it is fair to all participating jurisdictions.

The review was completed by Neilson-Welch Consulting and a report with recommendations was presented for consideration at the RDN’s committee of the whole meeting Nov. 28.

The objective was to assess the funding model that the regional district currently applies to support acquisition, development and operation of parks and trails in the RDN’s Regional Parks and Trails Service.

A variety of criteria was considered and one of the most vital elements is equity among the municipalities and electoral areas participating in the service.

The review was conducted earlier this year. It included research on funding models and financial tools used by other regional districts and local governments; examination of the acquisition, development, management and use of regional and community parks; and proposed funding options and recommendations based on the research.

The consultants’ review concluded that the level of equity across participating jurisdictions and among individual taxpayers in the Regional Park Service would be “improved by allocating acquisition, capital development and operating costs using an equal combination — 50 per cent-50 per cent — of converted assessment and population for regional parks,” the report stated.

That formula would see the City of Nanaimo’s rate share go up by $24,309, while Parksville and the Town of Qualicum would pay less — $12,913 and $520, respectively. Electoral Area B would also see a sizable decrease, of $18,372.

Upon learning the impact of the proposed funding recommendation, Nanaimo director Jerry Hong expressed his opposition and asked why the city should be paying for trails and parks that may not “directly or even indirectly” benefit them.

“If an area wants that park, it should come out of their budget,” said Hong, who added, “when do we stop paying our fair share?”

Instead of considering the recommendation of the consultant, the board decided to refer the matter back to staff. In the meantime, the committee of the whole suggested that the regional district use the existing regional parks parcel tax for the 2018 budget.