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Editorial: City cost-recovery a balancing act

Should the public pay full cost of services?
Finding how to best recoup cost and keep services affordable can be difficult for City Council.
YORKTON - At the last regular meeting of Yorkton Council Oct. 25, there was considerable discussion about how best to implement what was a sizeable increase in certain fees at the Yorkton cemetery. 

A 25 per cent increase in the price of certain lots and for long-term maintenance once a person is interred is significant, but it was noted the increases were required to better offset the costs incurred by the City at the cemetery. 

There is an increasing realization by Councils, not just in Yorkton, but across the country that they need to do a better job of cost-recovery on what they do. 

There are obvious shortfalls when it comes to municipal infrastructure, in particular road paving, underground water and sewer upgrades and sidewalk replacement. In all three areas the expectation of total replacement in Yorkton flirts with a century or more. 

What that means simply is if the City lays a new sidewalk it will be more than 100 years before they would normally return to replace it again. 

Of course the likelihood of the cement in a sidewalk lasting 100 years is unlikely. 

And drive around the city dodging potholes and over repeated repair sites will pretty much confirm pavement in Saskatchewan won’t last 100 years either. 

Now, there is no realistic way the City can charge user fees on sidewalks and streets, but they still need to find the dollars to do the work, and realistically the need is far greater than the current level of expenditure, thus the rather lengthy replacement timelines. 

So it becomes more important the city recoup costs where it can. 

That means inching fees at City facilities, such as the cemetery, Deer Park Golf Course, the two arenas and so on closer to cost recovery. 

That of course becomes a bit of a hot potato for Councils. 

If they were to look to charge full cost of operations for ice at the Westland Arena for minor hockey the fees youth pay would jump, and would likely push a number of youth out of the sport because families have to operate within a budget too. 

It’s a widely held belief that it is important to keep children active, both for their health, and because sport can funnel off excess energy that might otherwise see youth getting into mischief. 

It’s not so much different even at the adult level. There is a level that can be charged to play hockey, or golf that if it were to be exceeded would see a decline in numbers. The result would be less revenue, and a less attractive city for those considering a move. 

It ultimately becomes a balancing act the City and Council just juggle their way through when looking at how to recoup costs and do the work needed – some of it long overdue. 

And, how well a given Council does in that effort may also impact whether they are re-elected down the road too.