Negotiations for a new agreement on how proceeds generated from county municipal reserve land will be shared are expected to begin in January between Rocky View County (RVC) and two school divisions.
Yesterday, an agreement that has been in existence since 1998 came to an end.
Last November, RVC council agreed to terminate agreements with both Rocky View Schools (RVS) and the Calgary Roman Catholic Separate School District (CCSD). It provided a one-year notice of the decision, with the intention of replacing it with a modernized version.
Negotiations for a new agreement have been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, explains Larry Paul, associate superintendent of business and operations for RVS.
"The county decided they wanted to modernize it, which is fine, agreements should be modernized on a regular basis," says Paul, "it's just unfortunate that we've got behind in putting the new one together."
Paul believes a new agreement could potentially allow the county and school divisions to collaborate more.
"That's not to say we haven't so far, but I think there's more we can do, and perhaps within that new agreement it will obligate us to do more that way."
He sees such collaborations to be advantageous to residents, pointing to the example of how future county parks and schools could be located next to one and other.
"So, we can have a park and school right side-by-side. and the kids can take advantage of that space in the daytime and the general public can take advantage of our site in the evening."
Under the MGA, all new subdivisions are required to set aside 10 per cent as public reserve land, making collaborative projects a good option.
"Even at 10 per cent, that's a scarce resource in the way of property for both the county and for the school division to put their facilities on those properties."
He says in the short-term the funds governed by the previous agreement will be collapsed and sent to RVS and the CCSD.
"So those funds will still flow to the school divisions for our ability to do something for the students of the county in the way of capital upgrades or capital improvements for those students."
In the interim, there's no clear direction on how the funds will be used
"Once we have the new agreement in place and we have a new reserve started, then we'll have a much better clarification of how the funds will be used going forward."
The Municipal Government Act requires an agreement to be in place.
Under the previous agreement, when cash-in-lieu is provided for reserves as a condition of a subdivision, RVC holds 50 per cent to be administered by the municipality for projects such as parks and pathways. The remaining 50 per cent is held in a reserve fund for each school authority – which the municipality also administers – until the school boards request the funds.
RVS is the largest school division with the county and is allocated 83 per cent of the funds generated for education through the agreement.
Since its inception, RVC says the agreement has generated over $13 million for capital projects of the school divisions.
RVC Reeve Dan Henn says the county is strong supporters of education and its residents pay at least twice as much in education property tax per capita as residents in any other municipalities in the region. He says the county seeks to better balance the needs of the county with the needs of school boards for funding.
“Going forward, we can designate land specifically for school board purposes on a case-by-case basis, or make other accommodations as needed," states Reeve Henn in a news release. "We’ll still help out, but not with a system that automatically gives away half our municipal reserve funding when our residents are already doing so much to support education in this region.”