Monday, December 2, 2013

Increased BC Hydro costs to pose challenges for strapped School Districts

The recent rate increases outlined by British Columbia Hydro may have home owners grumbling about the extra expense to their personal budgets. But that may just be the start of the cash exchange, as the reach of the utility may soon prove to be the thing of a double dip for many residents.

One place where British Columbians may find the double tap of increasing hydro costs will be when it comes to School District taxation levels for next year.

Like homeowners, the cost of hydro is also going to have a large impact on School District budgeting across the province and the money to pay that incoming budget surprise will have to come from someplace, or someone.

As we outlined last week on the blog, those increasing rates will make for a challenging time for School Districts, with some already doing some quick math as to the impact it will bring.

Kamloops Daily News-- Hydro increase a hard hit to school district budget
Vancouver Sun--Schools, hospitals will feel the heat from BC Hydro rate hikes
Prince George Citizen-- Shocking increase
Richmond News-- Hydro hike puts squeeze on schools

Those anxieties in School District offices across the province weren't soothed very much over the weekend, after the review of some recent thoughts from Education Minister Peter Fassbender.

Fassbender offered up some advice to the Vancouver School Board, suggesting by way of comment through the Vancouver Courier, that School closures could be one way for cash strapped School Districts to cut hydro bills.

Closing schools we would think is a prospect that would have to be a last ditch decision for many a school board and the suggestion, beyond being a little quick of the lip, would seem to reveal that the Education Minister won't be particularly inclined to hear much from School Districts regarding their budget woes when it comes to hydro costs.

As the weeks go by however, he may be walking that particular sound byte back a bit. Especially when you consider the volume of attention that the comments have received in the short period of time that the Courier reported them.

Already some have called attention to the dismissive nature of  his contribution to the conversation.  With few apparently sharing his opinion that school closures should be the first item on the agenda to pay the hydro bills.

In particular, current BC NDP Leader Adrian Dix had much to say about Fassbender's comments on the topic. Framing the discussion in a way that many parents may find agreement with, that students and schools shouldn't have to pay for BC Hydro's current financial concerns.

For now however, it would seem that School District's will still need to make preparations for when the hydro bill comes due.  A situation that will  leave SD52 and other across the province with a number of  tough decisions to make.

With the December 3rd meeting for School District cancelled, Prince Rupert's School trustees will have to wait until the next regular board meeting of December 10th for their first opportunity to discuss and review the potential impact of the hydro increases.

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