The city approved a measure on January 28 to reduce the fees of recreation facilities. The policy will provide a discount on memberships and admission to public facilities for residents with income below Statistics Canada’s Low-Income Cut-Off. The cut off is over $16.5K for one person and just over $20K for two after taxes.
According to the results of a study called the Community Social Needs Assessment, over 20% of residents faced financial barriers to accessing recreation facilities. It’s estimated that over 1,800 residents would be eligible for the discount. Councillor Torresan sees it as an important step for community well-being.
“We did the survey and found that connection to the community is one of the most important parts of mental health. We think that being able to provide is going to be able to provide access to recreation to people that might not otherwise have access,” says Torresan.
He adds that part of the long term gain for the community includes improving people’s connection to the city. Torresan says that the city has a high income mobility rate meaning many can raise or lower economic status through income. His own experience tells him why that income mobility with a connecting to the community is important.
“Then if you have a close connection to the community you grew up in, it gives you the want to stay in Lloydminster as your home. I think that’s incredibly important, and can tell you that was my story. I was a skateboard kid and used to skate across town, from the Saskatchewan side all the way to Bud Miller during the summer. My connection to this city was one of the reasons why I came back after university.”
Torresan also says the short-term benefits, on top of additional revenue, include helping youth stay more active, healthy and out of trouble. Mayor Aalbers agrees that the whole community will benefit from keeping healthy.
“People using recreation facilities are healthier, active and better for the community. Be it healthcare or other services. They’re going to be healthier and better contributors to our community, and that’s really what we want to do is make as many contributors to the community as we can,” says Aalbers. The policy requires a Lloydminster address, but Aalbers hasn’t ruled out negotiation with surrounding communities.
“I’ll look forward to having a chat with the respective reeves of neighbouring municipalities. Recreation is something we talk about on a regular basis. I want to share something I think is beneficial to the city and to residents, ask them to take it back to their respective councils or build it into their budgets if possible.”
Aalbers recognizes that the facilities are funded by taxpayers and extending this discount outside the tax base would put any shortfalls on residents. The city estimates 350 to 700 may access the program when fully implemented.