I attended the meeting on Wednesday evening with the Health Board, and heard the updated financial requirements for a new Pineview Terrace. Not surprisingly, the projected construction costs have increased over the last year, and the Health Board is now proposing that the city's share will be $3 million.
When the new facility was discussed last year, the city's share, not counting the $1.3 million that's supposed to come from the Holy Family Trust Fund, was going to be $1 million, and that's what we committed to. Unfortunately, we didn't put it in our budget, so there is no money set aside at this point.
I suggested last year that we add a specific levy for this purpose to tax bills. Money raised could be kept in reserve until needed. After all, we've had a levy for the soccer centre for the last three years, and that levy will be appearing on your tax bill for the next several years, until 2015, I believe. I think that most taxpayers understand the need (as opposed to a want), of having adequate care facilities for seniors who can no longer live in their own homes. And, as with most things, the sooner that you start saving, the lower the individual payment amounts will be. It's like starting to save for retirement in your twenties rather than in your fifties - it's going to be a much less painful process to come up with the same amount of money.
However, others on council believed that the project wouldn't go ahead quickly, and we wouldn't need to come up with the money until some time in the future. However, the Health Board wants to go ahead now, knowing that costs will only increase in the future, and the need exists now.
I think that the city should commit to a number, and go about the process of raising that money, whether through a levy, or by dedicating the flat tax that was introduced last year to this purpose. There's currently $600,000 from the flat tax that has been set aside for unspecified infrastructure needs - I think that this would qualify as an infrastructure need. If we added that $600,000 to the $1.3 million in the Holy Family Trust Fund, we would only need to find another $1 million. Once we've made and met that commitment, I don't think that it would be fair for the Health Board to keep coming back with higher and higher numbers.
Good facilities for those who can no longer live on their own are essential in every community. At some point, most families face the difficult decision of finding a good home for their parents or grandparents, and City Council needs to remember that these facilities, and their residents, are as much a part of an attractive, healthy community as are athletic and entertainment facilities and their user groups. The difference is that having a good residential facility is a need, not a want, and one needed by those who have already made a lifetime of contributions to a community.
"We put more effort into helping folks reach old age than into helping them enjoy it." - Frank Howard Clark