During my visit with the grade six civics classes, I explain that almost 100% of the public education budget is provided by the the Provincial Government.
I was surprised to learn that there is another mechanism school boards may attempt to gain revenue: a special school tax levy. (Read More)
I requested information about the levy from our district administration to better understand any available option we have to protect our students, staff, and families from the Kenney cuts. We'll have a chance to discuss this on Tuesday, February 9th.
I want to make it absolutely clear at the outset, that I fundamentally disagree with the levy as it is the wrong order of government (with the least fair and effective revenue tools) picking up the bill.
Even the property taxes contributed across Alberta only make up a small percentage of the overall $8 Billion on Education. Public Education, addressing homelessness, or public health should be paid for through fair and equitable progressive revenue tools at other orders of government.
Costing it out: A municipal levy to backfill UCP Cutbacks.
For the sake of arguement, what if we put forward a municipal levy to backfill the $30 million in cuts to Pre-Kindergarten for vulnerable children?
Despite their campaign promise to “maintain or increase funding to education, the UCP cut Pre-Kindergarten for the most vulnerable children 76%. These programs were critical supports — programs that prepare the most vulnerable children, many with physical or verbal delays, to be ready for success in school.
For the sake of argument, If we were to propose a levy to the voters to restore the $30 million cut, we would need to raise approximately $5 per house per month or $60 per year (more or less depending on the average home value of ($368,000). This would allow us to re-open the 22 sites that were closed due to the UCP cuts. It would raise awareness in the mind of every single voter about the cutbacks and dishonesty by the provincial government.
While there may be advocacy value in raising awareness, there are challenges with the tool. For example, There is no way to target the higher assessed properties, such as in British Columbia where the wealthiest homeowners in homes over $3 million pay an extra percentage towards education. Further, the levy funding would need to be renewed after four years, and it appears that voters could just switch their property tax designations to try and adjust to a different levy or amount depending on the requisition-- even if both boards put forward a matching amount, this would get incredibly murky, inconsistent, and complicated.
This is all assuming that citizens could even mount, fundraise, and launch a city-wide campaign in order to push a ballot initiative like this, during a pandemic, and with all of these other challenges.
As I said at the top of the post, the provincial government is responsible for education and needs to fairly provide predictable, sustainable, and adequate funding.
So do we need the funds? Absolutely. But is a municipal tax levy ballot initiative the way to get it? Absolutely not. But at least we can say we looked under every rock.