The Okanagan Skaha School District won’t be getting a break on electricity costs this year, but they are holding out hopes for change in 2016.
Along with reclaimed water for school fields and an expanded shared use agreement, cost of electricity was one of the main topics of conversation during a recent luncheon meeting between city council and the school board.
Linda Van Alphen, school board chair, said the school district has estimated the 4.4 per cent electricity rate hike will cost the district $45,000. Staff from both organizations will be working together to review figures.
Van Alphen is hopeful that when the city considers the 2016 budget and electric utility charges, it will take some of the school district’s concerns into account.
“I think we are planning on working forward on it. I know that in the past we have made presentations and it has kind of gone to a deaf ear,” noting that in 2011 and 2012 the school board made presentations during the city’s budget deliberations.
“I know the barn door is closed right now, but in 2016 there is probably some other things the city might be looking at,” said Van Alphen.
Mayor Andrew Jakubeit agreed the school board has had difficulty making their case in the past.
“I think it is fair to say it has fallen on deaf ears, but when you come at the end of a budget cycle to say oh, by the way, we need $20,000 savings, it is sort of hard to wedge that in,” he said.
Jakubeit hopes other initiatives discussed during the private meeting may help support the school board financially, such as supplying reclaimed water for use on sports fields at Parkway Elementary, Maggie and Skaha Lake Middle School.
Staff has estimated, he said, that using reclaimed water could save the school district $24,000.
“We have a surplus of that, and long term we need to find homes for that surplus. So there is a partnership there,” said Jakubeit.
Expanding joint use service agreements may also generate extra income for the school district.
Besides expanding the city’s use of school facilities, possibly using gymnasiums as alternate polling locations in the next municipal election, Jakubeit suggested expanding use of school sports fields, which the city books for the school district, passing on a share of the proceeds.
“If we can work together on partnerships, where we expand our joint use of sports fields, which generates a little bit more revenue for them,” he said.
It’s been about three years since this kind of joint meeting was held, and both leaders are said they were happy with the results of the discussion.
“One of the main reasons of us getting together is to open that dialogue and communication that we haven’t really had with everyone in their own little silos,” said Jakubeit. “We can work together, especially when we share common interests.”