Cornwall Ontario City Council Fights Over User Fees – January 24, 2011

Cornwall ON – I don’t hide the fact that I like Councilor Denis Carr.   Even when we disagree we can discuss the point, but we tend to agree on many key issues.

I’ve been tarred and feathered for being against the Benson Centre as a project.  I feel that our community tax payers are being unfairly loaded with bills for a facility that simply is going to cost us more than we can afford as a city.

Councilor Carr has focused on the cost of maintaining the facility and tonight in council that really was shown as a report to council spoke of hiring two positions because of the size of the facility; this in addition to the higher costs of maintaining the building.

..subsidies should not be going to people who don’t live in this city..

I can’t argue with that.  Can you?   Councilor Dupelle suggested that people from outside of Cornwall pay more for Library service so why not from our new spanking Benson Centre?

Councilor Glen Grant, the chief advocate for the facility went on moaning like a bloated goat about how minor leaguehockey officials shouldn’t have to figure out who is from out of town and isn’t,but shouldn’t those that use this facility; that clamored for this facility pay for its maintenance and cost of use?

This week the budget comittee talked about raising property taxes by 5%.  Should we as home owners have our bills rocket up when they’re already high so that people who choose to not live in Cornwall have cheap ice time?

Councilor O’Shaughnessy is also against charging non-residents higher fees.

Maybe he’s right?  Maybe all users should pay the actual costs of supporting this facility and don’t cut deals for anyone that uses the Benson Centre?  Bottom line is that all this focus seems to be on keeping costs down for users instead of taxpayers and that rings wrong; doesn’t it?

Mayor Kilger is leading item by item to figure out the user fee issue.  Councilor Grant is now comparing Arena use to Transit.  (Is there a smiley for shaking your head?)

The debate over user fees made me feel like taking out a slide rule….it seems quite simple.  If you’re not from Cornwall you pay a slightly higher fee for services which makes sense because there are people who are quite happy living outside of Cornwall because they don’t have to pay our property taxes.   Many work here in Cornwall; many even for the city.

In the end Council decided to ban user fees for non-residents.  They pay the same as Cornwall residents.

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  1. It’s still a case of the many paying for the few. Thats whats unfair!

  2. I’m paying a hundred bucks a month in property tax plus the other 28% on payroll tax plus the sales tax every time I buy something, plus some kind of HST tax. Some of this cake makes its way back to the municipality. All these services have been paid for already. Don’t close the library door to me and then brag about helping art and culture.

  3. Where does that thinking end? I do not know Mr & Mrs X living in Toronto, but if they are on social assistance, I am pretty sure we are all paying. You may not use the Ottawa museums or National Art Centre, but we are all paying.
    Non residents should pay higher fees though for community things like this. However visiting teams staying overnight or longer, help restaurants and hotels and maybe they can organize and market deals.

  4. subsidies? i was sympathetic to this discussion until that quote.

    what about a long sault resident who owns a business in cornwall? how does the concept of subsidy apply to that person, who pays taxes in both long sault and in cornwall? no one is subsidizing us with the taxes we pay, thanks.

    our *community* ( cornwall ) is very much intertwined with the surrounding areas, with crossovers from schooling to sports ( there is no girl’s hockey team in long sault for our kid, so where should she play if she does not want to play with the boys?) to aquatic centre use to the library happening every day.

    i have been a member of the cornwall library and paid the higher fee without complaint because i am aware that i have library services in my community of long sault ( limited as they may be ). we do not have a sports facility that meets the needs of my family. the situation is different. if there was a user fee, would i pay it? likely. do i think that it is a wise decision not to charge *community members* ( if not city residents, are we not still part of the same community?) user fees? yes.

  5. Author

    Hi Angela,

    I understand what you’re saying, but you said

    “i am aware that i have library services in my community of long sault ( limited as they may be ).”

    well what is the difference with the Benson Centre?

    We choose where we live and where we do business generally because it benefits us or is what makes most sense in our life. If Long Sault paid per capita use of the construction costs for the Benson Centre it’d cost each citizen about $650 or $1.5M. That’s the gross dollar number. If you take out the Provincial and Federal subsidies you’re looking at about… $880K. Could you imagine the impact on the taxes of Long Sault Ontario if you guys had to pony that up?

    And that math is based on per person. We all know that essentially it’s home owners that bear the brunt of the burden.

    For me I’d have no problem with out of town users getting the same rates as we Cornwallites if they ponied up their fair share of the facility cost. Nothing extra; just their fair share.

    And here’s an even better idea. Scrap user fees and charge the real cost of ice rental for the facility factoring in for future arena build costs. According to many there’s a huge shortage of prime time ice space here in Cornwall with many groups having to buy up time out of town. In some senses that’s good because it helps other cities support their rinks.

    I think that the bottom line is that users have to do a better job of supporting their facilities and stop taking the public purse for granted. In the end we all pay; yet do we all have a voice? My taxes this year will be going up; chiefly because of the Benson Centre. Yours in Long Sault won’t.

    Either way thanks for sharing in this debate and subject.

  6. The difference is that Long Sault does not have a girl’s hockey team, where we do have a library – we need to go to Cornwall to get that service for our child. If there was girl’s hockey in Long Sault, our girl would be playing here. But this was just an example.

    I don’t think it can be that clear cut. Call me naive, and I am sure you will, but the inter community support goes way deeper and is more complex than simple user fees can pinpoint. I am looking at the bigger picture, not just the arena.

    If you are talking strictly dollars, then sure, you can call for all the user fees you want.
    But are these facilities ( and if I have stepped into an anti Benson Centre arena, then I will back out quickly because I have no desire to fight that battle ) simply for the community of Cornwall or for the greater benefit of our community as a whole, which undoubtably extends beyond the city limits?

    I still say that the idea of community in many cases, especially cases of public facilities, should reach beyond the linear boundaries of Cornwall. That is part of the cost of being a city centre that *wants* and needs the money of it’s surrounding communities, no? Cornwall is not a stand alone entity. It needs it’s surrounding towns and villages as much as they need Cornwall.

    I guess we will run into the same problem when we start discussing the cost of an arts centre, which will likely be located in Cornwall, but will be available to serve the wider cultural needs of our region.

    And as a taxpayer, and again, one that pays taxes in both Long Sault and Cornwall, I do not take the public purse for granted. I consider Cornwall and it’s growth as essential, probably more than many people living *in* Cornwall. And all voices are needed in discussion, as there are many ways to look at the issues.

    Heck, I am not even that against the idea of user fees, if the implementation is informed, uniform and consistent…I wonder if that is even a possibility at this point. Pricing programs meant to enrich a community out of the community’s reach serves no purpose either.

  7. Author

    “if the implementation is informed, uniform and consistent…I wonder if that is even a possibility at this point. Pricing programs meant to enrich a community out of the community’s reach serves no purpose either.”

    Hi Angela, I tend to agree with you. I think this is mostly about fairness to the taxpayers. Do I personally have any issue with anyone using our taxpayer paid for facility? Of course not and I’d hope that these facilities are used to their max and don’t sit empty at times.

    I simply feel that the burden of cost should be as fair as possible; to the taxpayer and user. I do think though that some politicians use these sorts of situations for their political gain over the real mandate of doing what’s best for the taxpayers. I’m not pointing any particular fingers in this statement, but taxes won’t stabilize or improve if we capitulate and give everyone as many services as possible. You just can’t have your cake and eat it too.

    “Long Sault does not have a girl’s hockey team” Long Sault does have an arena though. Maybe, just maybe, there needs to be a group or committee that coordinates area arenas and has input into how ice is shared and doled out. For example from my understanding Women’s hockey gets a raw deal in Cornwall currently and has to travel miles away to get any “prime time” slots.

    Now that’s a whole other topic 🙂

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