To understand the way politics work in this province sometimes it is better to skip the writings of John Locke and go straight to Joseph Heller. The Howe Sound school district, like many school districts in B.C., has to tackle the needs of a student population growing rapidly with a budget that grows incrementally. The district’s capital needs are for several new schools, to serve the growing population and to replace decrepit old schools. Into this situation steps Intrawest, which announced this spring it will donate a site within its proposed Spring Creek subdivision for a second Whistler elementary school. Donation of a serviced school site removes a major cost component for the school board. So, seeing the district is being given a school site, the Ministry of Education provides the school board with funds to begin planning the new school. But the school board doesn’t want to begin planning until it actually receives the site from Intrawest, in effect the board is turning down money for a school that all agree will be needed. To be fair, the Spring Creek subdivision is still only a proposal and is at least two years away from development. But planning new schools can easily take two years. Moreover, the subdivision is virtually guaranteed to go ahead; Intrawest has the development rights for its proposal, the basic subdivision plan has been around for more than two years, and Intrawest worked closely with the municipality in designing a subdivision that will meet the community’s needs by proposing a mixture of affordable and market residential housing. A second Whistler elementary school ranks fourth or fifth on the district’s capital wish list; an addition to Brackendale Secondary is first and replacement of Signal Hill elementary in Pemberton is second. But the Education Ministry rarely provides funding according to the districts’ capital wish list. The ministry has its own, province-wide criteria for determining funding. So while the Whistler elementary isn’t at the top of the school board’s list right now, through good fortune and the Education Ministry’s Byzantine funding criteria, there is an opportunity to begin work on a school that will be needed in the next couple of years. But that opportunity is being declined. One final bit of irony. The province has recently introduced legislation that will require new residential developments to contribute to the cost of acquiring land for school sites. At this point the charge, estimated at as much as $1,000 per unit, will be levied against all new residential developments, including affordable housing projects. As noted above, the plans for Spring Creek include several types of affordable employee housing — in addition to a school site. That’s housing that just got a little more expensive.

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