County Statement on Recreation Agreement Negotiations with City of Camrose

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Recreation Agreement Negotiations between County and City of Camrose

Camrose County Council would like to take the opportunity to respond to information printed in “City Proposes Tiered Fees” article in the Camrose Booster on October 27, 2020.  In that article City of Camrose Mayor Mayer is quoted as saying “We have not been able to see a recreation sharing agreement, nor have we received the capital funding for the pool in the amount of $2,640,000 from the County” and “…County residents, this is the result of a County decision to not enter into a meaningful recreation agreement with the City.”

The following is a timeline of the discussions and proposals on the Recreation Funding Agreement between the City of Camrose and Camrose County:

-April 17, 2017 City of Camrose requests a contribution of $2.64 million to the Aquatic Centre Renovation project estimated to cost $12 million.

-June 15, 2017 County advises the City that the capital contribution to the Aquatic Centre will be discussed during 2018 budget deliberations.

- February 2018 Camrose County agrees to provide $2.64 million in cash to the Aquatic Centre conditional that the City of Camrose agree to an Assessment Based model for recreation funding.  The previous deficit funding model resulted in fluctuations in the annual payment and is difficult for the County to budget for, and didn’t encourage efficient management of facilities.  The City of Camrose’s report on Recreation “The Equitable Approach” indicates that the costs and accompanying deficits for running City Recreation Facilities increased 11.4% from 2019 to 2020; and is estimated to increase an additional 11.4% from 2020 to 2021 and an additional 14.2% from 2021 to 2022.  These sharp increases in costs cannot be the responsibility of County residents as the County has no control over the management or operations of the facilities.  The Assessment based model proposed by the County would stabilize the funding and is structured to provide more funding annually to the City than the current deficit funding model.

- April 16, 2018 the following motion was passed by City Council “That the City of Camrose thank Camrose County for their proposal regarding a capital contribution of $2.64 million to the new swimming pool but unfortunately the City is unable to accept the proposed capital contribution with the conditions attached.

A number of meetings occurred during the ensuing months of 2018 where the City asked if the County could “increase the annual contribution to around $450,000.”

- October 2018 To ensure that the County was being fair and in-line with other municipal agreements, Camrose County hires an independent firm to review the County proposal.

- April 1, 2019 Camrose County presents to the City a second revised Assessment Based Recreation Agreement that increases the annual contribution amount to more than the $450,000 annual funding requested by the City of Camrose.

- July 3, 2019 City of Camrose passes the following motion “That the Intermunicipal Collaboration Framework (ICF) Negotiations be postponed until the City of Camrose receives a final report on the comparison of other intermunicipal recreation and capital cost sharing agreements in relation to recreation services”

- During 2019 The City of Camrose engaged a private firm to assist in the development of a counter proposal.

- January 14, 2020 The City of Camrose presents to County Council a proposed funding model for $1.2+ million annual contribution.

- October 20, 2020 Camrose County provides a third assessment-based proposal to the City of Camrose along with the $2.64 million capital contribution, which reflects the decrease in County Assessment Values as a result of Provincial Assessment Changes, but still provides annual payments above $450,000 funding for operations.

- November 16, 2020 The City of Camrose rejects the County proposal and makes a motion to move to arbitration and passes a bylaw to implement tiered recreation fees (Non-City residents will pay a 75% premium above the regular fee to use City facilities).

Camrose County Council wants County and City of Camrose residents to know that the County values recreation services and supports, in addition to the City facilities, recreation facilities and programs in 11 areas within the boundaries of Camrose County (Bashaw, Hay Lakes, Rosalind, Bawlf, Round Hill, Kingman, Armena, Ohaton, Meeting Creek, Edberg and Ferintosh).  Facilities, such as ball diamonds and skating rinks, in these communities are often utilized by City of Camrose residents at no charge.

The County recognizes that County ratepayers use City facilities and has for many years participated in a Recreation Agreement making annual payments to the City of Camrose (averaging $325,105 per year over the past 5 years).  The County understands that costs have increased and has offered an annual recreation contribution to the City of Camrose which would provide funding at $463,000 in 2021 (the 2020 payment under the current agreement was $337,514) and rise to over $500,000 by the end of the proposed 10-year agreement, as well as an annual payment of $264,000 per year for 10 years to fund the $2.64 million capital contribution for the Aquatic Center. 

The City has rejected County offers and is currently asking for funding in excess of $1.2 million in annual recreation operating contributions in addition to the $2.64 million in capital funds for the Aquatic Center.  This would result in tax increases to County residents at a time when fiscal restraint has been called for, and when all other areas of County operations are facing budget cuts.  The increases in deficits at City facilities cannot rest on the shoulders of County residents, and capital decisions in one municipality are not the responsibility of a neighbouring municipality. 

County Council feels that the proposals offered a reasonable and meaningful contribution for the use of these facilities by County residents.  The County proposal is consistent, or exceeds, (per capita) other urban/rural agreements around the province, the most recent of which are also based on Assessment. 

The County proposals are also consistent with direction from the Premier and the Minister of Municipal Affairs that “municipalities must reduce costs and avoid property tax increases to Albertans during these tough economic times”.  The cost of the arbitration process for the recreation agreement will be very expensive and will be borne by City and County residents alike – which is an unnecessary, additional expense in a time of financial constraint for municipalities and residents alike. 

Camrose County Council is hopeful Council for the City of Camrose will accept the Assessment Based Recreation Funding Model, and the accompanying capital contribution of $2.64 million (paid in annual installments over 10 years) for the Aquatic Center and avoid prolonging the process and increasing the cost to rural and urban taxpayers.