A survey circulating Rossland this week will gauge the community’s appetite for which option it could stomach to keep the full course of grades in the city for September.
A mail out survey by the Neighbourhoods of Learning (NOL) committee targeting the mail boxes of Rosslanders was airlifted Wednesday, while an online survey was posted Tuesday (http://vssrossland.wordpress.com), with the voting closing this Sunday.
The survey—open only to Rossland residents and business owners—comes on the heels of an NOL committee meeting last week in which the survey was announced, as were the intentions of the community to pursue options to keep kindergarten to Grade 12 in the city, explained NOL committee member Shelley Ackerman.
Around 150 people showed up for the meeting at Rossland Secondary School (RSS) to hear the NOL presentation on what the options were to keep all grades in Rossland, after School District 20 (SD20) trustees voted in favour late last month of moving secondary school grades down to Trail, and closing MacLean Elementary School.
The first option being investigated is how the City of Rossland could partner with SD20 to keep all grades at RSS for September, said Ackerman.
“We have limited time here and obviously if we don’t keep K-12 in the two from the word go kids will leave,” she said. “So there’s a sense of urgency, for sure.”
The survey and the NOL website discuss various options for city taxpayers on the issues if there was a will to raise taxes to form a partnership with the school board.
The city is waiting to see the results of the survey. Although city councillors Jill Spearn and Kathy Moore attended the meeting, there was no official presentation from the city.
“Certainly, we are waiting for some more information from the (NOL) committee and the survey and we will proceed from there,” said Rossland Mayor Greg Granstrom.
And they have some time. SD20 board chair Darrell Ganzert said the school district was not expecting a reply from the city until early April when its budget process is complete and the city would know if there was the wherewithal to raise money from the community.
The city is weighing options for covering the difference between the cost of K-12 and K-9 at RSS, which is estimated at $140,000 per year. The options include short-term spending over three years, and long-term spending, meaning an agreement in perpetuity.
The tax hit could be in the range of $43 per year for five years for the three-year deal (on an assessed property value of $256,000), and $64 per year for a longer term deal.
“We know there will be people against having their taxes raised, but we’ve made it pretty clear that this will affect the whole community, not just parents and kids,” said Ackerman. “It will affect the whole community financially. That hopefully will make people understand that it’s a good idea to have a small tax raise.”
According to the NOL website, “The loss of K-12 in Rossland will result in the potential loss of current families, it makes it more difficult to attract families to Rossland, revenues from international and academy students will be lost, there will be negative impacts from the absence of the grades 10 to 12s in the community, and housing values will drop, all creating dynamic effects and possibly a downward spiral.”
Ackerman said there were two task forces struck at the meeting to investigate other options should the city’s deal with the school district fall through. One task force will be looking at ways toward creating an independent or distance learning school.
That school would initially be for grades 10-12, and possibly more grades later as demand increases, said Ackerman, and tuition may be required.
The other task force is looking at how the city could form their own district separate from SD20.
“Those are both pretty long term goals and would not happen within the next couple of mnonths,” Ackerman said.
A municipal school would be part of newly formed municipal school district for Rossland only. This would be an option worked towards with the provincial government.
From the NOL survey
Impacts of losing three secondary school grades in Rossland include:
• Homeowners will see a drop in their house values (but not a drop in taxes) if there is no K-12 in Rossland. A one per cent drop in the value of the average home means a loss of $2,560 in equity for the homeowner—enough to cover a tax increase of $50 per year for over 50 years.
• Businesses in Rossland will be negatively impacted by the loss of students shopping in the community after school hours, and parents shopping outside the community while they are transporting their kids.
• K-9 means the loss of the Academy and International Programs at RSS. A conservative estimate sees International students contributing between $25,000 and $35,000 per year to the local economy, through home-stay fees, tuition fees, parental visits, and discretionary spending.
• Rossland’s economy would contract as families move away to K-12 communities, and as new families decided against moving to Rossland because it lacked the K-12 available in other destinations.