Funds for Evergreen School pavilion questionable

We further believe that the pavilion structure is a capital asset like the school building itself.

Funds for Evergreen School pavilion questionable

I have been a residential property owner in Cobble Hill for 20 years and we paid $4,100 in property taxes last year. The more we do to improve our home the greater the property tax penalty. Does that sound familiar?

Like the majority of residents, just trying to keep up with increasing property taxes on our fixed incomes creates a very stressful reality. Deferring your property taxes just postpones the inevitable and does little to ease the anxiety of paying your own way in your final years and leaving something for your children.

As one of the directors of CHAT (Cobble Hill Association of Taxpayers), I thought you would like to know:

Cobble Hill, which includes Arbutus Ridge, has perhaps more elderly per capita than anywhere else in B.C. who may be caught in the same ‘fixed income’ dilemma.

We should make it clear at the outset that we are not in any way opposed to the independent school system, nor of the generous provincial government funding formula that is already in place for them.

We are, however, deeply concerned with the way our area director seems to have resuscitated long dormant funding of a significant amount of public money for the local Evergreen Independent School Society.

According to CHIMP (a charity support group), in 2016 the Evergreen Independent School Society reported revenues of $872,224 of which 58 per cent or approximately $506,000 was from government (you and I) sources.

In 2011 this school society was authorized to receive conditional funding of $28,500 that would be totally forgiven if they still owned the property in 10 years. We understand that this funding went to cover the cost of the pavilion concrete slab on the school property.

It seems strange that after receiving that initial funding of $28,500 in 2011 all went quiet on this subject for four years until 2015, when it is reported that “The Sports Court at Evergreen School, which is a partnership between the Cobble Hill Parks Commission and the Evergreen Society is generally not being used by the public, as it has not been advertized fully and is still lacking funding for the roof structure.”

A further comment states that “with careful planning, [it] will ensure positive gains for all parties involved” but it is somewhat difficult to see evidence of either “careful planning” or “positive gains” to anyone at all.

There is then yet another dormant period from 2015 to 2017 when it is then reported in the Proposed Amended Five Year Financial Plan 2017 that: “The Area Director for Cobble Hill has requested an additional $50,000 in Gas Tax Funds be included in the budget amendment for the proposed Evergreen School Timber Framed Pavilion project.”

We have to question whether this reawakening was initiated or facilitated independently by the area director and without prompting by outside interests?

We believe that this sudden generosity of our area director towards the Evergreen School Society puts the Society at odds with the FISABC (Federation of Independent Schools Association of B.C.) public statement that “Independent Schools in B.C. receive no public funding for capital costs.”

We further believe that the pavilion structure is a capital asset like the school building itself. We should also point out that structures built on private land are not public. Usage by the public will be subject to the rules of the School Society that owns the property and any assets that are attached there to. In addition, we are wondering what will happen to the agreement that the CVRD made with the Society to allow limited public access to the property if the Society sells?

Instead of this outright gift to the Evergreen Society, we believe that this funding should be used for the $43,000 budget allocation for the rebuilding of the Manley Creek Park stairway which is part of our existing community park system.

Herb Strom

Directors of CHAT (Cobble Hill Association of Taxpayers)

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