School boards seek exemption from B.C. Hydro rate hikes
The president of the British Columbia School Trustees Association is calling on the provincial government to exempt public schools from the recently announced B.C. Hydro rate increases.
Alternatively, Teresa Rezansoff, chair of the Boundary School District, would like the province to give schools a special, lower electricity rate.
In a December 3 letter to Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett, Rezansoff expressed "extreme concern" on behalf of 60 school boards about the government's plan to hike electricity rates by 28 percent over the next five years.
"While funding for public education has been frozen numerous operating cost increases outside of the control of Boards of Education are creating a negative impact on programs and services to students," Rezansoff wrote. "Unfunded provincially negotiated employee agreements and increasing MSP and insurance premiums are just a few of the unfunded cost pressures Boards face each year as they work to meet their legal requirement to submit a balanced budget. Even the recent report from the Government’s Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services acknowledged the mounting cost pressures on Boards and called for increased funding."
According to Rezansoff, the electricity for more than 1,600 buildings costs school districts across the province $35.5 million a year. Her letter estimated the planned rate hikes will cost B.C.'s school districts $4.1 million in 2014-15, and a total of $29.5 million over five years.
"Without government relief this will result in additional loss of staff and further reductions to services for students," Rezansoff wrote.
"We strongly urge you to exempt public schools from the recently announced BC Hydro rate increases or to provide an education utility rate for schools. In the end these are all provincial dollars moving from one budget to another, with students caught in the middle."
Bennett announced the rate increases on November 26 as part of a 10-year plan for B.C. Hydro.