Should the city charge non-profits for community centre room rentals?

Should not-for-profit community groups be able to use meeting rooms and halls at the Revelstoke Community Centre for free?

Should not-for-profit community groups be able to use meeting rooms and halls at the Revelstoke Community Centre for free?

A staff report to be discussed at the Oct. 25 city council meeting looks at whether the practice should continue and will also serve as a precursor to a newly-revised bylaw expected in November.

Currently, city policy doesn’t exempt these groups from paying the rental fees, but the longstanding practise has been to exempt them. A policy review noted the discrepancy and Parks, Recreation and Culture staff are now seeking council direction, including the possibility of a revised policy that may exempt some but not others.

The report pegs the total in-kind freebies from January to September of 2011 at $75,481. $71,106 of that was for room rentals and the remaining $4,375 was for in-kind pool and equipment rentals.

Letters from several athletic and community organizations are attached to the report, all encouraging that free use of the facilities for non-profits continue. The tone of the letters indicates there is apparent confusion about the existing policies and new policies being considered.

The staff report advises that the de facto exemptions should continue because of the services provided to the community by the clubs and organizations, but opens the door for a new policy that spells out who gets a room for free and who doesn’t. The report breaks down the in-kind contributions into organizations that are focused on youth and those that are adult-focused.

Although the vast majority of clubs and organizations that received exemptions between January and September of this year are easily identified as youth or community-focused volunteer clubs, there are several that arguably fall outside these categories. These include union meetings, the B.C. Wildfire Management Branch, City of Revelstoke meetings and Columbia-Shuswap Regional District meetings.

A total of $40,306 of the in-kind donations are to groups categorized as “businesses” in the report.

The staff report notes that charging groups that were not previously charged would mean some would seek meeting space elsewhere.

Most of the organizations received in the neighbourhood of a few hundred dollars in in-kind free rentals. However, some individual organizations received far more. The Revelstoke Shotokan Karate Club was by far the biggest recipient, receiving $35,905 in that nine-month period. Next was The Revelstoke Theatre Group at $6,499 and in third was the City of Revelstoke at $4,310.

The Parks, Recreation and Culture Department is also hosting a public information session on the issue this Monday, Oct. 24 in the Community Centre’s Macpherson Room at 7 p.m. Attendees are not being asked to chip in for the room rental.