As of Sept. 3, Surrey's recreation passes are no longer free for low-income adults in the city.
Surrey's leisure access program, which has roughly 25,000 users, allows permanent, low-income residents to participate in parks, recreation and culture activities for free or at a very low cost.
Yearly passes were previously 100 per cent free for all members of low-income families, and provided access to drop-in fitness classes, swimming and skating as well as entry to weight rooms at Surrey rec centre.s As of September, the passes remain free for children 18 and under and for seniors over 60; however, low-income adults will now be on the hook for 25 per cent of a single, monthly or yearly admission pass: A yearly adult pass currently costs $425.50, a monthly pass costs $59 and a drop-in costs $5.75.
That means an adult who previously had a free annual pass will now have to pay $106.38 for that same pass.
At the same time this change took effect, the city also raised its regular admission rates by three per cent. A regular yearly adult pass has jumped by $12.40, to $425.50.
David Young, chief executive officer of Sources BC, said if the city is raising rates, the city's poorest shouldn't be hit harder than the rest.
Young says it's not proportionate that a low-income adult now has to pay more than $100 for an annual pass that was previously free to them, and an adult purchasing a yearly pass is only looking at an increase of about $12.
"I hope the city will rethink this because this is a disproportionate increase for people who have the least money," Young said.
The increase is not in line with the City of Surrey's poverty reduction plan, he added.
"That's just too big of a gap," Young said. In addition to that change, the city has put a cap on the registered courses it subsidizes: The city covers 75 per cent of the cost for registered programming, but those under 18 will now have a maximum discount of $300 per year, and those over 18 have a cap of $150.
Laurie Cavan, Surrey's parks, recreation and culture manager, said the changes were made to ensure the program is able to continue long into the future.
"We wanted to maintain a high level of flexibility but we did introduce this small financial contribution for their participation at the facility," Cavan said of the adult admission fee changes, adding that the city wanted to ensure children, youth and seniors still had full access.
When it comes to the cap on registered program discounts, Cavan said the program is still very generous.
"That was set so that there's some limit in terms of the amount of opportunity that an individual can access," she said. "It's more generous than any other program in the Lower Mainland."
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