NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association request that the Government of Alberta, when developing new schools, fulfill the role of a contractor and share the costs associated with the development of the lands for the placement of a school structure.
FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Province of Alberta, when developing within a municipality, give clear information/policy identifying what the municipality is expected to financially contribute to the project prior to construction of the structure.
WHEREAS The Province of Alberta is responsible for providing educational facilities within our province;
WHEREAS municipalities desire to work with the Province of Alberta in the development of school facilities within our jurisdictions; and
WHEREAS planning and funding of schools has been traditionally the role of the province.
Every school that is being developed requires the following: Land, Structure, Services, Access and Play area.
Penhold worked with our local school jurisdiction over the past eight years to solidify a new school within our community. We were fortunate to obtain a Regional High School serving the urban and rural population. The news was exciting to the community.
Once we began discussions on the design, it became apparent that the province did not act as a contractor or partner. In discussion with the representatives from Alberta Infrastructure and Alberta Education they clearly identified their role was to simply construct a structure and the immediate perimeter around the structure, nothing more. This was a total surprise to our municipality.
As a result the town is responsible for:
- acquiring the land;
- providing water and sewer utility servicing to property line;
- providing parking at the school;
- the construction of an access to the parcel;
- the upgrades to the intersection - in our situation being in close proximity to a highway; and
- providing a school play yard and development of it was identified as the municipality's/local school responsibility.
This school is a joint urban/rural school serving the surrounding area. Our community appreciates the opportunity to provide a high school to the residents in the area however the anticipated costs to the town were not disclosed prior to the start of the project. This project did and has created a financial hardship to our urban citizens.
Minister response summary: The Honourable David Eggen, Minister of Education, sent a letter dated January 21, 2016, stating that he agrees municipalities and school authorities should be aware of what they are expected to contribute in the process of building a new school.
The Minister mentioned two resources published by Education to support collaborative school site planning:
The School Capital Manual, which addresses the respective roles and responsibilities of government, the municipality, and the school authority.
The Guidelines for Planning School Sites, which clarifies respective roles and responsibilities in the process leading to the construction of schools and playing fields
The Minister also noted that one of AUMA’s 2014 resolutions stated “that the Government of Alberta, when developing new schools, fulfill the role of a contractor and share the costs associated with the development of the lands for the placement of a school structure.” The Minister stated that this recommendation “requires further analysis related to the nature, extent and cost of the proposed new role for government, as well as the implications associated with such a change. Alberta Education’s capital funding does not currently cover such items, and the School Capital Manual states that total project cost does not include extraordinary site costs. site acquisitions, access roads to the site, services to the site or any other landscaping features beyond a five-metre perimeter of the building envelope. The school jurisdiction should work in consultation with the local municipality and the site developers to ensure these items are addressed.”
The Town of Penhold's resolution regarding school development is consistent with AUMA's recommendation that the new MGA should "Facilitate greater cooperation between municipal authorities and school boards, particularly in regard to school reserves and the planning and servicing of schools and the disposition of school property and school reserves."
AUMA met with the Office of the Auditor General to provide input into the Minister of Education’s request for an investigation into delays in the construction of schools. This provided an opportunity to profile our resolutions and the recommendations that were formulated a few years ago on the planning, communication and funding of schools. Unfortunately the Auditor’s report released in April 2016 did not reflect input from AUMA on school sites, nor acknowledge the key role municipalities play in developing school sites.
A webinar on developing joint use agreements was held in April 2016 (https://auma.ca/news/webinar-recording-joint-use-agreements-schools).
As Municipal Affairs advised that no changes would be made to MGA provisions pertaining to reserves without the support of the Minister of Education, AUMA shared our positions with the Minister in August 2016 and asked for a joint meeting with Municipal Affairs, School Boards, and AAMDC to determine what MGA changes are appropriate. There was no response from the Minister, but a consultation document released by Municipal Affairs in November 2016 indicated that the spring 2017 MGA changes could require mandatory joint use agreements and consider land benefit areas.
Bill 8, An Act to Strengthen Municipal Government, was passed in spring 2017. This bill mandates school boards and municipalities to enter into joint use agreements, and provide municipalities with increased flexibility to use a ‘benefiting area contribution structure’. This structure supports land dedication and development parameters with respect to assembly of parks and school sites.