Cities’ taxpayers to pay more for P3 schools, minister indicates

The government continues to plow ahead with its plan to have schools maintained and built privately as P3s, and revealed yesterday that in order to do that, taxpayers living in cities with P3 schools will pay more.

The costs of all schools in Saskatchewan are paid by the provincial government and therefore have been shared by all – but now the government says residents will, and should, pay extra if they need more school space in their community.

“We think the cost should be borne by the ratepayers in the areas that are getting the maximum benefit,” Education Minister Don Morgan told reporters at the legislature Thursday.

“Nonsense,” responded NDP Deputy Leader Trent Wotherspoon. “Changing the rules of the game and having just some people kick in extra for basic education now is unfair.

“Families in communities that have crowded and run-down classrooms, and not enough classrooms shouldn’t have to pay more than everyone else in order to get enough class space for their kids. A community that needs a school should have a school.”

The minister of education confirmed Thursday that under the government’s P3 scheme, it has already asked municipalities involved to pay up. Regina is taking money from its reserve fund for parks and green spaces to service the land for one of the future schools, prompting mayor Michael Fougere to tell the media Thursday: “We certainly believe that education funding should rest with the province.”

The NDP agrees.

“Warman, Regina, Saskatoon – these communities desperately need schools and they need them now,” said Wotherspoon. “This isn’t a luxury item – it’s a basic classroom that all students deserve.  For this government to tell municipalities and families in those communities pay up, pay extra or you’re not getting a school right now seems fundamentally wrong.”

Wotherspoon said the P3 rent-a-school model is already typically much more expensive, because it involves hiring a private company to operate the schools on a decades-long contract before the province buys back the property according to a contract. Hiding some of that big price tag by forcing the costs onto municipalities might help the province’s bottom line – but not taxpayers’, who will still pay more overall for the pricey privatization plan.

The NDP continues to urge the government to use the quicker, more cost-effective method of building, owning and operating schools in Saskatchewan. Provincially-built and owned schools can also accommodate community groups, day cares and sports teams, unlike the rigid, contractual rental use of the cookie-cutter P3 schools.

The NDP introduced a bill that would have at least made P3s transparent and ensure competition on price – but the government voted that law down earlier this year.

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For more information, contact:
Erin Morrison, NDP caucus