Kimberley City Council will be moving forward with a motion put forth by a fellow Council member to challenge the province’s legislation for taxation of Group 4 Independent Schools.
Councillor Kent Goodwin explained at a regular Council meeting on Monday that under the province’s legislation, a proposed international school in Kimberley would be exempt from paying property taxes.
“Purcell International Education (PIE), a BC registered for-profit corporation located in Kimberley, is proposing to build a 600-student international school in our community. The school would be classified under the Independent School Act as a Group 4 independent school,” explained Goodwin.
He went on to say that there is some concern about the additional costs that the students would place on City services.
“Sewer and water costs can be recouped by the application of sewer and water fees. However, Section 220 of the Community Charter prohibits the imposition of property value taxes on that business and those taxes are what normally fund services such as transit, bylaw enforcement, library, policing, road and trail maintenance etc. Any additional burden that the student population places on these services will need to be funded by existing taxpayers,” Goodwin wrote.
He adds that PIE recognizes this fact, and does not object to paying taxes, however that simply isn’t an option under the proposed school’s current classification.
“The City of Kimberley is seeking relief from the Province by requesting that Group 4 Independent Schools be exempt from the Section 220 prohibition (in which case they could be taxed as the businesses that they are) or that the province recognize the burden the prohibition places on local taxpayers and provides a compensatory grant to the Municipality,” Goodwin wrote.
Council discussed the possibilities at length, with Mayor Don McCormick and Councillor Darryl Oakley opposed to the motion.
Oakley says that the City should first be exploring other options, such as speaking to the 11 other independent schools in BC that are currently classified as Class 4.
“How do those schools offset the costs? There’s a more efficient way to get this information…” said Oakley.
Councillor Sandra Roberts agreed with both sides of the coin, saying that it would be good to see this come forward at the Union of BC Municipalities.
“Let’s give it a try and if it doesn’t work we can find out what our other options are,” she said.
The proposal will first go before a committee at the Association of Kootenay and Boundary Local Governments (AKBLG). If the committee decides it’s worth bringing forward, it may then be discussed at the UBCM.
Mayor McCormick says that the timing isn’t right.
“I’m not supporting this, not because of the propoal but because of the timing,” said McCormick. “We haven’t even received a development permit [from PIE] yet. Also, there’s only going to be 150 students [during the first phase]. The whole plan is still a concept at this point and they’re still years away from getting shovels in the ground.”
He went on to say that the school will likely have to rely on Canadian students considering the state of China’s economy. He also pointed to the 11 other schools with the same classification, all of which have around 100 students.
“We don’t know why this legislation was put in place and how it might affect those other  schools. It’s not a bad proposal, it’s about the timing,” said McCormick.
Goodwin ended the conversation by saying, “this motion involves minimal effort. Chance are, any resolutions will take just as long to come to fruition as the school will to be built…This allows us to say we’re taking the proper course of action.”
If the proposal were to be approved by the province, it would not affect taxation of other independent schools, such as the Kimberley Independent School because they are under a different classification bracket.