Langley City protests boost in school acquisition fee

The school district plans to more than double fee charged to builders and developers.

  • Sep. 11, 2013 8:00 p.m.

Langley City council is planning a visit to the Langley school district office this month to ask the Board of Education to help them solve a bit of a math problem.

Council agreed on Monday night to send a delegation to the board’s next meeting after receiving a letter last Friday, informing the City that the district proposes to more than double the school site acquisition fees charged to developers.

The letter indicates the board of education intends to adopt the Eligible School Site Proposal report at its Sept. 24 meeting.

Councillor Dave Hall, a retired teacher and former chair of the Langley Board of Education, received unanimous support for his proposal to have the City send a delegation to urge the board to revisit the way in which it plans to implement the fees.

Under the current proposal, once implemented, the charges for single family dwellings would rise immediately from $354 to $737, while fees for townhouses and condos would jump to $590 per unit, from the current $283.

The school district came up with the new figures earlier this year, after it hired  Urban Systems Limited to look into how much Langley charges the development community, and learned it has been charging significantly less than neighbouring municipalities.

There are only about a half a dozen houses built in the City each year, so that fee is not a major concern, said Hall.

He’s more worried about the proposal to more than double the fee for each townhouse and condominium unit built, while City residents get little in return.

The board of education’s plan lumps the City and the Township together, because they are in the same school district. However, Hall said it is a case of apples and oranges.

Unlike the Township, which has seen three new schools open since development began on the Willoughby slope, and has another under construction, there are currently no plans to build any new schools in the City, noted Hall.

Nor are there likely to be, with a 10-year projected growth in the number of students in the City of just 370, compared to more than 8,000 in the Township.

“I’m quite astonished the school board would put this together and not use population forecasts,” said Councillor Teri James.

The issue of school site acquisition fees was discussed more than a decade ago, when Hall was serving as school board chair.

“I argued at the time that the City had some obligation because of kids going to choice programs (in the Township). But certainly the hit should not be equal,” he said.

Hall’s motion calls upon the school board to phase in the increase on an as-needed basis, rather than as “a onetime catch up assessment at an unacceptable percentage.”

Implementing the jump will penalize both developers and prospective homebuyers, Hall’s motion states. The fees, which are passed on to consumers “have the potential to discourage house, townhouse and apartment purchasers with the potential to further erode Langley City school populations,” it reads.

“The City has 60 days to accept or reject this,” said Councillor Gayle Martin. “My question is what happens if we don’t accept it?

“It appears we don’t have a choice. Do we?”

If the proposal is rejected, both parties could go to the Ministry of Education for mediation, said City CAO Francis Cheung.

The ministry could impose the fees, or come to a compromise, he added.

“The intent of the delegation is to perhaps avoid mediation — to come up with two different fee levels that could be acceptable,” Hall told council.

Since the subject was last addressed, there have been a number of changes of personnel at the school district office, Hall noted.

“There’s new management, a new secretary treasurer who maybe doesn’t know the history.

“I’m optimistic they’ll come back with a more palatable plan.”

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