Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
There's no mistaking how residents of Queens County's District 7 felt about a proposed area tax rate hike to support the Seaside Recreation and Community Centre Association, located in Beach Meadows.
Of 223 eligible voters who came out March 3 to the Seaside Centre to vote on the proposed increase, 192 were against the hike while just 30 were in favour of it. There was one spoiled ballot.
The proposed area tax rate would have tacked on four cents per $100 of assessment per year for the next five years. This would have meant an extra $40 per year for every $100,000 worth of property value.
The vote is non-binding and the final decision will be made by the Region of Queens Municipality (RQM) council in the upcoming weeks as it works through the municipality's 2021-22 budget.
However, RQM Mayor Darlene Norman said the vote would play a part in the council's decision on the matter.
"The vote certainly gives everyone a clear intention of what the feeling of the community is," she said in an interview with LighthouseNOW.
If the area rate goes through, it would mean an extra $30,000 in revenue for the Seaside Centre, which is struggling to get by, especially since COVID-19 hit in March 2020 cancelling several rentals and fundraising activities. This past fiscal year, thanks to donations amounting to $12,000, however, the centre will see a small profit.
Sandy Cross, president of the Seaside Centre board of directors, is discouraged by the vote's results.
"I guess we know where Seaside stands now and people don't want to support it," said Cross. "But that doesn't mean we are going to close up and go away just yet."
The money would go towards covering general operating expenses, along with several projects that are on the cards. These include the installation of heat pumps, accessible washrooms, making the basement more accessible, the provision of picnic tables, revitalizing the baseball field and basketball court, and adding more games such as darts and washer toss.
Despite the vote, Norman hopes that residents will step up in other ways.
"The request for this area rate certainly is a cry for help from the community hall," she said. "So it is my hope that people in the community will step forward and assist them, be it as a board or committee member and attend or help with fundraisers."
Cross admitted being surprised by the vote's results, however she said there were some positives coming out of the process.
"I think it actually made the community aware that what we are trying to do is a good thing, and that they need to step up," said Cross.
She noted that the board gained another member, while a few people came forward and said they would be happy to help out with any fundraising activities that are taking place.
The District 7 assessment area covers residents in Beach Meadows, Eagle Head, East Berlin, West Berlin and Port Medway.
A public meeting for affected taxpayers was originally scheduled to be held prior to voting, however, due to COVID-19 protocols, it was unable to happen. However, the public had access to a flyer, newsletter and social media posts describing the need for the tax rate.