Rossland school survey shows support for tax increase

Results from a week-long city wide poll found that 60% of responders supported an increase in taxation to continue K-12 education.

The people have spoken and an overwhelming majority of Rosslanders are in favour of an increase in taxation to support the continuation of kindergarten to Grade 12 education in the Golden City.

The results of a week-long, city-wide poll by the Neighbourhoods of Learning (NOL) committee were delivered Monday to Rossland city council and it was found 60 per cent of the respondents supported a tax increase if it meant grades 10-12 would be kept in the community.

The result was “encouraging” said NOL chair Aerin Guy, and a response rate of 37 per cent overall illustrated how much the issue was of importance to people in the city.

“A survey like this is not binding in any way, but it does send a message to city council that shows that there is a majority of support there,” she said.

And the message was delivered by Guy Monday night at Rossland City Hall. Mayor Greg Granstrom said council will now include a component of taxation for education in its upcoming budget discussions in the next few weeks.

He said council would take the survey results “very seriously,” and it was a good starting point for how much the city’s taxpayer’s could be involved in saving the secondary school grades.

“There are some very significant decisions we have to make when it comes to budgeting, so we have to take all things into account and go from there,” he said. “It will definitely have to be part of the budget discussions, without a doubt.

The matter will be coming back to council at a later date, with the potential negotiations taking place with School District 20 on how the partnership could be created between the two governing bodies.

SD20 board chair Darrel Ganzert spoke with Granstrom last week on whether there still existed a will for a partnership.

“We would look very seriously at anything (Rossland) would suggest,” said Ganzert.

“So it is something that the school board is willing to spend some time with.”

But the issue isn’t just money, said Ganzert, even though the district will save up to $145,000 per year with moving the three grades to Trail’s J.L. Crowe Secondary School.

On Feb. 25 the board of trustees adopted a bylaw to close MacLean Elementary School next year, and Rossland Secondary School will begin hosting kindergarten to Grade 9 in September, losing grades 10-12.

Ganzert said the money the city could offer would “be a huge factor for some trustees to consider,” but it won’t be a done deal to keep the grades in the city.

“(Trustees) will consider the educational offerings that are available in a K-12 situation in Rossland,” he said. “Although it may impact some people’s decision if there is money made available by the city, it just simply won’t be the money, I don’t suspect.”

He pointed to the resources RSS may lack in the new configuration, compared to what students could access at J.L. Crowe if they are sent down the hill.

Of the 480 responses—out of 1,285 households in Rossland—that were included in the survey there were a further 77 that were not considered because people did not give a name or address.

Forty nine per cent of the respondents had children school-aged or younger.

Around 57 per cent of the respondents also said they would support RSS as a public school within the creation of a municipal school district. As well, around 42.5 per cent favoured an increase in taxation if an independent school was created for grades 10 to 12.

There were around 29.1 per cent not in favour of any tax increases whatsoever.

Overall, a large majority of taxpayers (70 per cent) were willing to pay more than $15 per year for K-12 as a public school within SD20, while 20 per cent were willing to pay more than $100 per year.

The majority (53 per cent) were willing to pay more than $55 per year for K-12 as a public school within SD20.

There were 95 comments received that were opposed to the tax increase, with some saying that taxes were already too high in Rossland and that the students were better off at Crowe.

“It is absolutely ridiculous that we would even be considering K-12 because our children would not get

the selection of senior sciences and maths in order to move on to post secondary,” read one survey comment. “Having two professionals in our household, being prepared for post secondary is extremely important to us and we don’t think that K-12 in Rossland would provide that opportunity.”

Some commenters indicated their willingness to pay more taxes even though they believed the school district or the province should be pressured to pay for more.

“Our children have completed high school but our vested interest is in supporting our community, maintaining services and facilities for all Rossland residents and keeping young families interested in living in this great community,” read another comment from the survey.

The majority of taxpayers were found willing to support a tax increase for K-12 within SD20 and within a municipal school district. The majority was found willing to pay more than $55 per year for both of the options.

However they were found more willing to support a tax increase for a municipal school district in perpetuity and tax increase for K-12 within SD20 only as a bridging strategy.