People are now beginning to discuss the merits of the referendum that will be held on Saturday, Feb 26. The question is about borrowing up to $20 million to build facilities many people feel are needed in the community.
Some people are concerned about a lack of clarity in what they are being asked to vote on. Perhaps looking at it this way will help with this concern.
The District is in effect going to get a pre-approved mortgage, just as most of you do before you buy a house. The money will not all be spent in the next year; in fact, a lot of the money won't get spent next year either.
Some people are concerned that you don't know the exact site or design of the amenities we plan to build, or the cost of each.
Again, please think of your pre-approved mortgage. You wouldn't spend money putting in the foundation until you knew a bank would loan you the money to finish the house.
In our case, we plan to build several community amenities that have been identified as community priorities if we get your approval.
Projects on the list include a second sheet of ice, a seniors' centre, an arts centre, a community trail to link neighbourhoods, ball fields, a youth gym and a proper track and field facility with an artificial infield that would be used for soccer and football.
If we were to go out and get exact plans, locations and costs for each of these prior to the vote, the cost would be in excess of $1 million. It would not be good use of our tax dollars to spend this money until we determine if the community supports the plan.
This is the reason the provincial government changed the process, so that communities would not spend large amounts of money before getting the voters to express their will.
If the spending is approved, then the public will get plenty of opportunity to give its input into design, feasibility and location before the facilities are constructed.
The other reason we need to get the "pre-approved" mortgage is to help groups raise money for their contribution. If for example, the Arts Council wants to apply for federal funding, one of the conditions is usually a commitment of local dollars. Without this process, the Arts Council would not be able to give that assurance to the federal government.
Why do this all at once? First, no one said Squamish is going to build six or seven facilities in the next 10 months. The approval for the funding allows the planning to take place for the various initiatives that are part of this.
And remember, a yes vote on Feb. 26 is like you getting a line of credit at the bank. We will only borrow the money as we need it. For example, we may borrow $2 million this year, $5 million in 2006, $6 million in 2007 and the remainder in 2008.
The payments will reflect the amount we borrow. We are not obligated to use the entire amount. Through partnerships, sponsorships and donations, we may use less than the amount we are seeking.
In the case of the mythical average taxpayer in the example above, you would pay $16 extra this year on your taxes, $40 more in 2006 and about $48 more in 2007. As our community grows and the tax base increases, the amount will be spread among more taxpayers and the amount you pay would be less.
The majority of Squamish Council is of the firm view that based on two years of dialogue with community groups and voters throughout the community, that these projects are essential building blocks in the development of a well-rounded Squamish over the next decade.
The final point is this: people have said they want these facilities. Families want them. Individuals want them. Groups want them.
Unfortunately, like everything else in life, they don't come free. There is a cost now, and there will be a greater cost later.
If you have questions on the bylaw, please feel free to call me anytime at 604-815-5030. You can also email me at email@example.com.
You have a simple choice on Feb 26. Please vote "Yes" for the Community Amenities Bylaw.