By Trevor Busch
Recognizing that many low-income families in the region may not have the financial ability to access a wide variety of municipal recreational services, the Town of Taber has stepped forward to offer a helping hand.
Members of the community have approached administration on a number of occasions asking if the town has a fee assistance program.
After researching several other communities in Alberta, town administration found that many communities have a program in place for low-income families.
“This is actually an exciting new policy…it should be a feather in our cap should council choose to adopt this,” said CAO Cory Armfelt at town council’s Dec. 16 meeting.
The policy allows low-income individuals and families living in the Town of Taber and M.D. of Taber to access drop-in and registered programs offered at the Taber Community Centre and Taber Aquafun Centre at a reduced rate of 50 per cent if they qualify.
“These requests often come from senior’s groups and special needs groups,” said recreation director Dawn Phillips.
Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) will screen individuals and provide a referral letter to the individual.
FCSS follow the income threshold they use to qualify people for their free tax return programming.
“We will partner with FCSS to screen families, rather than administration being involved in looking at people’s finances,” continued Phillips. “They’ve agreed to work with us.”
According to the policy, “Town of Taber employees will make every effort to respect the confidentiality of the community member utilizing the fee assistance program.”
Total family income thresholds to qualify for the program (based on 2019) are $35,000 (one person family), $45,000 (two person family), $47,500 (three person family), $50,000 (four person family), $52,500 (five person family), and $52,500 plus $2,500 for each additional individual (families of more than five).
The policy was presented to the Taber Recreation Board on Dec. 5, 2019, and the board passed a motion recommending council approve the program, while including residents of the M.D. of Taber.
“This is indeed exciting news. It was discussed at our last recreation board meeting,” said Coun. Garth Bekkering. “Ms. Phillips, I’ve got to applaud you for bringing it forward, and I think it’s about high time we do something to help those who cannot afford to participate.”
“I especially appreciate that it also includes residents of the M.D. of Taber,” said Coun. Carly Firth. “I think that’s an important thing.”
Following discussion, council voted unanimously to approve as presented Fee Assistance Program Policy PS-REC-13.
Administration believes the policy may result in a “potential increase in revenues as many of these individuals are not currently participating in our programs.”