EDITORIAL: Debating budget items

A proposed skatepark in Summerland has generated considerable controversy in the community

A proposed skatepark, to be built on a school field at the corner of Rosedale Avenue and Jubilee Road, has generated considerable controversy.

This item, one of many capital projects in the 2018 municipal budget, has an estimated cost of $595,000. Summerland’s share of this cost is $448,000, and some of this money will come from the Community Works Gas Tax Fund.

It is a significant expense, but there are also some bigger, more costly projects in the plans for the coming year.

An aerial fire truck has a price tag of $975,000. Trail upgrades in Giant’s Head Mountain Park have a cost of $725,000. Vehicle replacements are expected to cost $2.255 million over the next two years, with $1.617 million for this year.

However, of all the items in the list of proposed capital projects, the skatepark generated the most discussion.

Some believe the money should go to other recreational needs, such as maintaining or replacing the aquatic centre or adding pickleball courts.

Others question whether the number of people using a skatepark could justify its cost.

And some believe taxes should be lower, the budget should be tightened and a skatepark should be seen as a luxury, not a necessity.

While municipal budgets are big — Summerland’s general fund is $15.3 million this year — there is not enough money to provide every amenity. Some projects must be delayed and others must be cancelled entirely.

Determining how much to allocate for each project is not an easy task, and not everyone will be happy with the outcome.

However, a blanket statement about spending in general is not a proper response. Such a statement moves the discussion from the value of a skatepark to a debate on the philosophy of government spending.

The municipality’s budget and spending priorities should be based on the needs and priorities of the community.

The questions to be answered are about which projects should take priority and about the importance of a skatepark.

Philosophical debates over spending in general belong in election campaigns, not budget deliberations.

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