Budget discussions at city hall have brought out some different points of view. First, of course, are the disparities in the different categories and what percentage of the overall budget they pay. Nobody wants to see their taxes rise, and we know with the volatile assessments and sale of property in the last year the normal shifts from one area to another has become a concern. What I found interesting, though, is the feeling of who pays for what, or who should pay. One comment that came out was the issue of tax exemptions for facilities like the golf course or the curling club. These premises, unless it has changed since I was on council, are only exempt for the portions that are public. Anything that is related to a business like the proshop or food services facilities is not exempt. Similar to the Legion that pays taxes on its bar section as did the Elks when they had a bar.
So then comes the question. Who should pay and who should not? It is my belief that once we become adults we should pay for our own recreation. But when you look at a tax exemption for a facility that provides a public service and draws many visitors to our community, you must ask, is that money well spent?
On the other hand, we have a recreation complex that is supported by tax dollars, and from what I can figure generates less than 50 per cent of the cost of operation. We have a new community arts centre supported by tax dollars as well. I have not been able to separate the youth programs from the adult ones, and have to agree that the entire community should support youth programs, but the adult programs should be self-supporting or not offered. Better yet, these programs should definitely not be competing with what the private sector is providing. We have privately owned fitness centres and places like Curves that are operating a business and providing a service as well as paying taxes. Should those places be paying taxes to subsidize a program at the recreation centre? I for one say no.
Walt Cobb is a freelance columnist for the Tribune. He is a former Liberal MLA, former Williams Lake mayor, and current president of the Williams Lake and District Chamber of Commerce.