Enrolment crunch offers, ‘small window’ for levies
The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board is hoping the pending closure of seven high schools will allow it to begin levying education development charges on new homes and other construction.
Senior facilities officer Dan Del Bianco said the closures will see enrolment exceed overall capacity at the remaining high schools, offering “a small window” to get provincial approval for the charges.
The Catholic board already levies fees of $739 per home and 22 cents per square foot on non-residential construction, charges paid by the builder but ultimately passed on to buyers.
Del Bianco said doing a background study to justify the charges is the first step in getting Ministry of Education permission, a process that also requires trustees to hold a public meeting before they pass an enacting bylaw.
He said the city would collect the fees, which are solely for the purchase and servicing of elementary or secondary school properties in new surveys.
Site-preparation costs for a new wing at Saltfleet District High School in upper Stoney Creek could also qualify despite a $5.4-million ministry contribution because the expansion is needed to accommodate the area’s housing boom, he added.
“What the charge will be, I’m not 100 per cent certain yet,” Del Bianco said.
“The background study will contain the triggers that we need to qualify for education development charges, what that estimated charge will be, as well as what the future sites are, their general locations, the general price per acre.”
Del Bianco said he expects the study to be completed in mid-April to allow for a mandatory 40-day ministry review and approval of the bylaw in June, one that would likely be in effect for five years and line up with the Catholic board’s.
Judith Bishop, trustee for wards 1 and 2, welcomed the initiative, noting the board had to find money from other sources to buy land for new schools in Waterdown and Binbrook, and needs sites for another elementary school in Waterdown and one in Ancaster.
“We’ve been waiting for this opportunity for some quite time,” she said during discussion at last week’s committee of the whole meeting. “This is something that we need really badly.”
The secondary closure plan calls for the board to acquire sites for new high schools on the southeast Mountain and by the new Pan Am Games stadium to replace Barton, Hill Park, Mountain, Delta, Parkview and Sir John A. Macdonald.
Parkside in Dundas is also slated to close next year, with students shifting to Highland, scheduled for a $15-million expansion.
Del Bianco said of those three projects, only the southeast Mountain site might qualify.
“If we could attribute growth to it, then that could be one of them as well,” he said. “It’s not for purchasing sites in areas where there are mature communities or declining enrolment or anything like that.”