Presentation to Gabriola LTC forthcoming

Rachelle Stein-Wotten

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder

A charge on new development to fund land purchases for the school district has received support from the Regional District of Nanaimo board, joining the City of Nanaimo and Lantzville.

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools says growth projections indicate it will need to purchase land in the next decade. The charge affects those who would be subdividing land or building new residential units where two or more additional dwelling units are constructed on a property.

Initially NLPS intended to move forward with applying a school site acquisition charge on four or more units, a threshold within the authority of school districts as per the Local Government and School acts. Seeking the charge on two units or more requires local government approval. It’s about equity, Mark Walsh, NLPS secretary-treasurer, said.

“If you have an acre lot that you turn into three units, you’re more than likely creating kids because you’re going to have single family units whereas an apartment of 16 might have the same amount of kids produced even though it’s going to pay 16 times that charge,” Walsh explained to the electoral area services committee Jan. 13.

No separate charge would apply to a secondary suite associated with the first dwelling unit.

Approval of the school site acquisition charge for Electoral Area B is the purview of the Gabriola Local Trust Committee. The RDN, however, would collect the charge for Area B. How exactly that may happen has yet to be determined, an RDN staff report says.

Dale Burgos, NLPS communications director, said the district expects to present to the LTC soon though no date has been set as of this writing.

About 17 of 60 school districts have a school site acquisition charge in place, Walsh told RDN directors. NLPS intends to review the need for the charge every five years.

The charge can only be applied to 35 per cent of the value of the land to be purchased; the Ministry of Education pays the remainder.

“This is our only mechanism to locally gain funding barring taking it out of our operating grant,” Walsh said. The province requires school districts to have a charge in place if it wants to acquire new land.

“The school district can use locally sourced funds without the charge in place to acquire land but that’s pretty unrealistic given how little discretionary dollars we have on hand.”

Directors asked if the charge could be applied to NDSS, for example, which the school district has identified as needing upgrades and is projected to go over capacity.

“It is only for additional growth,” Walsh explained and cannot be applied to buildings; “however, if we determined we wanted to expand [a school], we could use the funds to acquire additional lands in order to expand the school.”

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