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Council pushes new user fees bylaw back to the drawing board

Airdrie council was not happy about the new user fees and charges bylaw that saw increases across all services.
City council met April 3 and declared April 15 to 21 Nation Volunteer Week in Airdrie.
City council met April 16 to discuss the user fees and charges bylaw.

Airdrie’s council got a look at a new user fees and charges bylaw, and were not happy about the increase in costs requested by staff across the board.

Council tabled the item during the April 16 council meeting for further discussion at a future public meeting where council can look at every user fee with a red line comparison document, a market rate justification report, and a report highlighting the full cost of services.

Meghan Bigney, Airdrie’s manager of finance, noted there are nearly 500 fees listed in the user fees and charges bylaw. Most fees saw an increase to either fully recover the cost of the service, or to meet market standards.

Overall, council was concerned about the affordability of many user fees facing an increase.

Coun. Heather Spearman first spoke up during the presentation to address fees relating to the cemetery costs. 

“I realize we’re extremely limited in space, but that is one area where I am not willing to increase the fee,” Spearman said. “I don’t mean to nickel and dime a lot of these but you’ll see I have quite a few throughout the appendix that I have concerns with and this would be the first one that jumped off the page for me.”

“As it stands, these increases for me, whether it's Genesis Place, whether it’s transit, whether it’s the facility fees, it’s confusing,” Spearman added. “I don’t support it.”

She went on to say more thought needs to go into considering the users. Additionally, she felt increasing the home based business fee was not right considering the subsidization of non-resident business fees.

In terms of the increased cost of Airdrie’s programs, she said, “It shouldn’t be something where only the wealthy get to do these programs, they should be attainable for everybody.”

Coun. Ron Chapman then questioned why local users are being charged more in certain recreational areas than out-of-town users. 

Coun. Tina Petrow added many fees faced astronomical increases and that it would be beneficial to see the market rate comparison. 

Agreeing with Spearman, Coun. Candice Kolson felt council should be giving direction to have every department come forward with their reasoning behind their fee changes. More detail is needed, agreed Deputy Mayor Al Jones, including market comparisons and details on how the City can subsidize costs.

Within the new bylaw, RCMP administration charges, utility administration fees, water and sewer utility fees, and banking charges were increased for full cost recovery. 

Fees related to parks, Genesis Place, transit, waste and recycling, building inspections, planning and development, and fire department were raised to meet market average.

Bigney said Bert Church Live Theatre fees and the Town and Country Centre fees were changed to reflect the hours of service and booking demands.

Based on 2024 volumes, the additional revenue generated by the increases was estimated to be $1.2 million. These rates would be used in the creation of the 2025 budget, along with updated volumes as projections are calculated.

Masha Scheele

About the Author: Masha Scheele

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