The South Cariboo Aquatic Society (SCAS) is gearing up for a telephone survey to be conducted by the Cariboo Regional District (CRD) in September to gauge the community’s temperature for holding a referendum next spring.
This survey will target about 400 randomly-selected taxpayers in communities within the South Cariboo Recreation (SCR) function boundaries to gather input on a proposed aquatic centre and associated property taxation increases, for the potential referendum questions to be based on.
However, some residents in 108 Mile Ranch are raising eyebrows, and concerns, after seeing a SCAS brochure circulating that references $135 per $100,000 in assessed value, potentially raising property taxes on higher-valued homes by $500 or more.
SCAS Amanda Bird says the brochure is part of its awareness campaign to help ensure the public is on board with the idea, and that those affected are ready to answer the survey questions if they are called.
“We want people to finally have their say in if they want to see an aquatic centre, if they are willing to see their taxes increase [as indicated], and if not, if they are willing to look at a lesser design in a pool.”
The full-blown “preferred” design includes a 25-metre lap pool; a leisure pool with wading areas, sprays and a lazy river; a large hot pool; and an adjacent fitness space.
Bird adds the updated cost estimate of $15.1 million is based on the worst-case scenario of having no grants to support the project.
CRD Area L Director Bruce Rattray says gathering public input is still at an early stage, and the board intends to get information out to people prior to the survey and encourage them to participate, if called.
The CRD was not aware SCAS was going to be distributing pamphlets now, so folks should ensure they have the facts before making any judgements, he adds.
“So far, this has all been at the working group level. We need to take it back to the South Cariboo Joint Committee, and make sure that they are comfortable with what we’ve developed.”
Rattray notes the CRD now has updated numbers reflecting the current rough costs to build the preferred design with “all the bells and whistles.”
“The $135 figure is what we are going to work with for now, because that’s our best estimate on what it would cost to construct and operate the facility that we went through the exercise, a few years ago, in defining.”
This added about $2.3 million to the original costs to now sit at $15.1 million (in 2016 dollars) – which is a “conservative” estimate, he says.
Rattray explains the survey will ask things like “would you support $135 per $100,000 in assessed value, with the currently defined preferred option?”, but also include “if you don’t support it, why not?” to help determine what their issues are.
“We expect to get a variety of reasons why people would not support it.
“If they do support it, we are interested in knowing ‘how much do you think you would use it’?”
Rattray adds if money is a significant factor for some, the CRD will want to know if they would be willing to support a simpler facility at a lesser cost.
“This survey is really to try and gauge the level of support [and to] get a better feel for what people want.
“The most important thing to note is, this isn’t the referendum. Eventually we’ll have to deal with this at a referendum, in which case everybody (in that SCR taxation base) get involved.”