Tobiano, Savona, Lac Le Jeune and residents in other areas surrounding Kamloops will not face school acquisition site charges — a tax levied on new homes to help fund construction of new schools — despite students from those areas attending Kamloops schools.
During a joint meeting on Tuesday (March 23) between the School District 73 board of education and city council, councillors and trustees heard from SD73 facilities director Art McDonald following concern from some on council about such areas not pitching in to acquire land for new schools.
New charges on residential development are proposed to be $288 per unit for single-family dwellings, $259 per unit for multi-family dwellings/low density and $201 per unit for multi-family dwellings/high density.
McDonald said the fees — currently under review by the province — would only be based on development in Kamloops because the school district is not seeing growth in surrounding areas.
“We could not make the argument to the ministry [of education] to apply it to those areas,” McDonald said.
Mayor Ken Christian, however, said growth is identified for the southwest sector in Kamloops, noting students from Tobiano, Savona and Lac Le Jeune travel to the city to attend high school. McDonald said that while Tobiano is seeing growth, the school district looks at affected schools and has determined where new property is needed for buildings.
School needs include a secondary school and two elementary schools in Aberdeen and an elementary school in adjacent Pineview Valley.
Coun. Arjun Singh questioned the school district’s ability to be “nimble” when it comes to future planning and needs. Desire for a school downtown has also been discussed. City development director Marvin Kwiatkowski said most people purchasing downtown don’t have school-aged children.
The school district and city speak two to three times per month, with communication between the two government bodies touted by school district staff as “the best it’s been.”
School board chair Rhonda Kershaw said the school district appreciates support from council and noted funding for school projects is in the hands of the province.
Board of education vice-chair Meghan Wade said the school district is still playing catchup from what has already been developed in Kamloops. The list of school needs also includes a new elementary school in Batchelor Heights, an elementary school in Juniper West and a kindergarten to Grade 12 school in Sun Peaks. Schools identified for replacement include Dallas elementary (with increased capacity) and South Kamloops secondary.
McDonald said the projects have been on the school district’s capital plans list for a number of years.
The meeting heard of a double-whammy hitting the school district in terms of school needs — the previous Supreme Court of Canada decision on class sizes and a simultaneous need for classroom spaces due to increasing enrolment and growth.
“We are in a position where we are trying to play catchup and we don’t have control of these dollars,” Wade said.