News Views: Just the facts

When Maple Ridge council first floated the idea for capital expansion, the borrowing cost in the budget was pegged at $110 million.

The total cost to build all of the city’s new recreation projects is now $200 million.

When Maple Ridge council first floated the idea for such capital expansion a year ago, the borrowing cost in the budget was pegged at $110 million.

It remained that amount for the past year and was again listed as the same amount in the most recent budget discussions, last month.

But we are told that was just a sample figure used by the finance department for budget planning purposes, and that there are now more capital projects than originally listed.

So why not use the new estimate in the budget?

Financial general manager Paul Gill confirmed the total cost of all the proposed projects is $200 million.

However, he added, which projects are to be built hasn’t been determined, and those selected will be phased in and likely take five years to get underway.

Can we assume then, given what we recently learned about renovations to the Leisure Centre – that since first proposed two years ago, the costs have increased significantly, and will continue to do so – so will those for the proposed recreation projects?

This is important for taxpayers to understand, before they vote, because it will affect their tax bills.

No matter which avenue is chosen – to borrow lots and build as many as possible, sooner rather than later, or to do so more gradually – the projects have to be paid for somehow.  The costs won’t be less, unless taxpayers decide they don’t want new facilities.

The city is seeking grant funding to help ease the burden.

The city has previously stated that the cultural centre – with a museum and archives, pool upgrades, post-secondary space, youth wellness centre and parkade expansion – has the best chance to qualify for a federal grant. But to qualify for one, the city has to spend money and prove it will be built regardless.

Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read said this week that she isn’t married to that project if the voters prefer others. So far, the city has feedback from just 130 people, although a random survey of 3,000 is about to be mailed out.

It is incumbent of council and city staff to be transparent with the costs of the recreation projects, today and tomorrow, bundled or not, and how they will be paid for – year by year, in numbers – prior to the alternative approval process taking place. Any alternative numbers only serve to confuse voters.

– Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News