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Regional district, school board at odds over funding for new schools

The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District has rejected a plan to fund new schools due to technical details.

The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District has rejected a plan to fund new schools due to technical details.

The Howe Sound School District’s school site acquisition program is attempting to raise 35 per cent of the funds by levying a surcharge on new residential developments such as subdivisions.

"We have concerns about the methods," said Steve Olmstead, the SLRD’s planning manager.

Those concerns range from not seeing a copy of the resolution to its appropriateness in rural areas.

Other sticking points include the school district’s growth estimates for certain areas and its selection of specific school sites.

School district 48 has estimated it will have an extra 1,352 school children to educate over the next 10 years. The board predicts that another four elementary schools will be needed over this period — in Whistler, Furry Creek, Squamish and the Garibaldi Highlands —to accommodate the growing school-age population.

Sites for the new schools are expected to cost approximately $5,584,100.

According to Nancy Edwards, the school district’s secretary-treasurer, the plan is part of the Local Government Act, which stipulates an agreement with the SLRD and local municipalities to partially fund new schools.

"It’s quite complex," she told Pique Newsmagazine .

Schools are currently funded through municipal property taxes.

Olmstead pointed out Furry Creek as an example. The area is currently seeing significant growth and will, sooner or later, need an elementary school.

"We are working together there," he said, noting that the SLRD — not the school district — has to deal with the rezoning issues.

The growth estimates are based on the school district’s research and 10-year outlook that can be, according to Olmstead, either accepted or disputed. That’s where the dispute arises. But Edwards did indicate the disagreement will be heading to mediation to try and remedy the stalemate.

The Howe Sound School District is the administrator for elementary and secondary schools in the Sea-to-Sky region from Furry Creek to mid-way up Anderson Lake beyond D’Arcy. The SLRD is the regional planning body for the same area.