NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association request that municipal Affairs and Alberta Education develop the necessary policy and legislation to ensure all costs related to the provision of the larger high school sites, land, services, and other school related infrastructure such as parking lots and playing fields be the responsibility of the provincial government.
WHEREAS Alberta Education requires school sites to be available and serviced to the property line by the municipality prior to a new school project being announced for a community;
WHEREAS the current provision of school sites through the dedication of municipal reserve (MR) works well for elementary and middle schools;
WHEREAS the necessary land for a high school is larger than the Municipal Reserve (MR) dedication;
WHEREAS this need for a larger site for high schools necessitates the purchase of additional land and servicing costs to enable the necessary high school to be built with this cost being borne by the municipal tax payers;
WHEREAS municipalities and local school authorities must continue to work together to identify appropriate sites for schools in their communities; and
WHEREAS education is a community benefit but a provincial responsibility.
The School Capital Manual of the Alberta Education/Alberta Infrastructure dated January 2012 states that "the approved budget for Building Construction Costs is to be used for the physical construction of the school facility and normal site development costs incurred when undertaking a typical school construction project (Page 21)."
Furthermore it states: "The Total Project Cost does NOT include extraordinary site costs, site acquisition, 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 with the local municipality and the site developers to ensure these items are addressed." (Page 22)
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 City of Red Deer’s resolution regarding the provision of high school sites is consistent with AUMA’s recommendation that the allocation of school reserves under the MGA be increased. In addition, the resolution 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." Finally, the resolution’s recommendation that the province cover the costs of school-related infrastructure is consistent with AUMA’s recommendation that any provincial downloading of responsibilities is matched with appropriate resources.
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.