City manager warns of huge impending hikes to user fees

City manager warns of huge impending hikes to user fees

Whether Toronto should be subsidizing its recreation services at a higher level than other GTA cities is a political question. Whether it can afford to is a financial question. And whether it will continue to do so is a reporter’s question. The answer, according to the Toronto Star? Apparently, not so much.

The Star’s David Rider reports:

City manager Joe Pennachetti says he will strongly recommend to city council that it increase any user fees deemed “discretionary” by KPMG so that they fully cover the cost of delivering the activity or service.

That would be a monumental shift from a current model that has users of recreation programs — which KPMG deemed discretionary — paying on average only 30 per cent of the cost. General revenues cover the rest.

“So, for example, if you have an adult swim class, or a piano class, offered by the city, we would be looking at recovering all or as much of that cost as possible,” Pennachetti said in an interview.

So according to Pennachetti, city staff will effectively recommend that the cost of certain programs more than triple? We can’t wait to see what council does with that. We actually expect that the eventual staff recommendations will be less drastic, as the Star notes they’ll also consider the social costs of these cuts (e.g. the impact on children’s health or on visiting rates at the public pool). And of course, we can’t ignore the fact that there are people who might actually benefit from user fee hikes—the people who can afford to pay more will face a lot less competition for time in the pool lanes. Like we said, we can’t wait to see how council navigates this one.

City user fees poised for big jump [Toronto Star]

(Image: Nathan Phillips Square, Doug Kerr)