Maple Ridge voters have OK’d borrowing $49.5 million for a raft of recreation projects, but so far, the city hasn’t had to go to the bank and instead is using money from its own savings to pay the bills.
The alternative approval process was held in January 2018, to approve borrowing for the new Albion Community Centre, ($8.5 million) two all-weather fields near Thomas Haney secondary ($7 M), a new rink at Planet Ice, ($23.5 M) along with $3.5 million for part of the renos to the Maple Ridge Leisure Centre, plus other, smaller, projects.
“We haven’t externally borrowed it. We have managed the cost to date, through our own reserves, internally financing it,” said City of Maple Ridge chief financial officer Trevor Thompson.
“But the amounts are getting sizable enough it makes it harder and harder to do.”
Thompson said that the larger price tag items such as the Albion Community Centre or the new ice rink, could require borrowing.
Total price tag for the community centre will be about $18 million, while the ice rink is priced at $23 million.
“If it gets to be a large number, it becomes problematic,” Thompson said. On the other hand, if borrowing eventually is required, the cost to do so is relatively inexpensive for cities which can get triple A rating, he said.
“I’m not totally averse to looking at extra borrowing,” Thompson said.
“But if we can manage internally, we will as long as we can.”
Some of the bills for those recreation projects have already been paid, such as the $7 million for the two all-weather fields that opened last summer next to Thomas Haney secondary, also known as Telosky Stadium.
Maple Ridge Mayor Mike Morden said council has ordered a report to provide an update on the $49.5-million recreation plan. That will include the final cost of the renovations to the Maple Ridge Leisure Centre.
He added that council has also heard from a couple of other sports groups who say their needs weren’t considered.
“Once we have a full and completely costed needs assessment, council will have a further decision-making and funding source conversation,” Morden said.
When it comes to this year’s (2020) list of capital spending, recreation doesn’t figure large, with the previously approved projects already projects underway. This year, only $529,000 is allotted to parks, according to the capital plan.
That compares to $15 million for roads, $7 million for water lines and $6 million on sewage systems. Development cost charges however, pay for part of the roads budget.
Coun. Gordy Robson said the community amenity contributions, implemented in 2016, are intended to pay for recreation facilities. Maple Ridge charges developers $5,100 for each single family home or $3,100 for each condo they build, to pay for recreation projects.
“That’s hopefully what this council will continue to do,” Robson said. “We’re moving the burden from taxpayers, in general, to new projects that are paying their way as they’re coming in.”
He estimated that the city is spending only $25 million so far, for the recreation projects. “We probably won’t have to borrow, unless we want to,” Robson said.
Morden though said it’s too early to talk about funding sources such as CACs for the recreation projects until council receives the update.
He said that council is committed to the recreation master plan and is willing to look at more services.
“Council is committed to providing decent, quality recreation for our users on a value, cost, needs basis ensuring there’s a sensible way to pay for these service demands,” Morden said.
Next year’s capital spending for parks and recreation will be six times this year’s amount.
In 2021, more than $3.4 million will be spent on parks and recreation, although most of that ($2.4 million) will be used to buy property for the new South Haney Park at 230th Street and 113th Avenue.
In 2018, council approved a .35-per-cent tax increase for the next seven years, to pay for the operating costs and debt servicing for the recreation projects.
“It depends on when things are planned for,” some years are busier than others, he added.