City electrical rate increase to cost school district $70,000

Board wil write a letter to Penticton city council to ask for some rate relief in the face of another budget shortfall

Next month’s electrical rate increase is expected to cost the school district $25,000 in the last portion of this fiscal year alone, prompting trustees to ask the city for help.

The board of the Okanagan Skaha School District heard at its meeting this week the planned four per cent rate hike could add up to $70,000 annually to utility bills across its operations.

“School districts do not have the ability to raise funds in other ways. We are fixed income, essentially speaking,” said secretary-treasurer Bonnie Roller Routley, who asked the board to write a letter to the city to request a rate freeze or reduction.

“Not that it’s not fair or nobody else should do (rate increases), but we’re already at the point where we’re already looking for a minimum of $800,000 (savings) in next year’s budget,” she said.

The rate hike was finalized by city council earlier this month and applies across the board to all customers of its electrical utility.

City spokeswoman Simone Blais said she could not find any previous examples of rate relief provided to any of the utility’s customers, institutional or otherwise.

“There are times when the city collections department will make arrangements with a customer who is behind on their payments and unable to pay the outstanding amount, but the balance is ultimately addressed,” she said via email.

Blais noted the city has not yet received the letter from the school district, but “should we receive such a request, it would be a decision of council.”

School district officials appeared before city council in January 2012, when they unveiled research that showed schools within their organization paid on average 40 per cent more for electricity than those elsewhere in B.C. that are serviced by FortisBC or BC Hydro.

“We’re in the same situation with the corporation of Summerland,” said Trustee Linda Van Alphen, who noted, however, that two years ago council there “actually listened to us and we had a more reduced rate.”



Penticton Western News