School division feels crunch of carbon tax

Fueling up 80 school buses and heating schools and buildings is projected to cost more than $90,000 for High Prairie School Division in 2018 with the increase in the carbon tax levies.

Richard Froese

Now into the second year, the provincial carbon tax has cost education.

High Prairie School Division officials say it’s the cost of a job in the classroom.

“The increased cost is comparable to another teacher in our division,” says Tammy Henkel, who chairs the board.

Implemented by the NDP government on Jan. 1, 2017,, the levy has added $61,614 in costs to the division and more as the levies increased.

“We are projecting an additional $30,846 in 2018 as a result of the carbon levy, assuming we maintain current consumption,” says Jody Frowley, director of finance.

“That would increase the total spent on the carbon levy to $92,460 in 2018, again, that is about the cost of one more teacher.”

Frowley says the division carbon tax added an estimated $3,000 to heat each school facility.

Trustees and staff remain committed to maintain local services.

“We are trying to find efficiencies wherever we can,” Henkel says.

“One thing we have not done is cut programming.

“We have kept the same level of service to our students.”

Careful planning and spending has enabled the division to allocate additional costs from both calendar years into the budget, she says.

“We continue to try to find cost-saving measures to address this increased cost of doing business,” Henkel says.

“Cost-saving measures cannot include asking kids to move closer to our schools or shutting off the heat in our classrooms.”

She and trustees also struggle to pay the added costs without government support.

“As a public non-profit organization, we have not received any monies to address this increased cost,” Henkel says.

One staff member adds to that.

“We are hopeful our government will recognize the added cost placed on non-profit organizations and support them monetarily going forward,” says Harry Davis, director of transportation.

Before the tax was implemented, he feared it would hugely increase costs to operate its fleet of about 80 school buses with Northland School Division to transport 2,000 students daily to 16 schools.

“This levy and the trickle-down increases it produces affects our overall operating costs,” Davis says.

“With the addition of the carbon levy and ever-increasing cost of doing business, we are challenged each year to find ways to operate in a very efficient manner that continues to be good for the environment, students, and High Prairie School Division without negatively affecting instructional time.”

Steps have already been taken to maintain costs.

Two routes were effectively reduced to ensure ride times were not increased significantly.

Excessive idling has been reduced and is working well, he says.

The division also sources parts for best pricing and reduced freight charges.


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