January 18, 2015 - 7:34 PM
PENTICTON - Okanagan Skaha School District trustees are grappling with the high cost of electricity in Penticton.
The board passed a motion at their Jan. 12 board meeting to invite Penticton city council to meet as soon as possible to have an in depth conversation with regard to electrical rates charged by the city.
The trustees hope to meet prior to council passing its budget, which was recently finalized, but has yet to be adopted.
School board chair Linda Van Alphen said the district is one of only two in the province that deals with a municipality as a middleman for their electrical supply needs.
“For our district, that puts us at a disadvantage. We pay the highest rate for power than any other school district in B.C. — $300,000 per year more than a district of similar size,” Van Alphen said. “We could use that money for any number of things. It could pay for three teachers or cover our supply budget.”
Van Alphen noted that in Summerland — where the school district faces a similar situation with the town supplying the power — the rates are on par with the rest of the province.
“The last time we approached Penticton, they made some suggestions to reduce our power usage, including a number of things we were already doing,” she said. Van Alphen pointed out the school district has installed geothermal heating and cooling in Princess Margaret, Penticton High School and Skaha Lake Middle School, in addition to undertaking several heating and air conditioning system upgrades in other schools.
“The city charges us $1.8 million dollars for the electricity, water and sewer use annually,” she said.
With the city having finalized the budget, Van Alphen is not hopeful anything can be done this year.
However, city council recently opted for a 4.4 per cent increase to residential hydro bills, which was based on a combination of the retail and wholesale price for hydro in the city. She is hopeful a motion councillor Helena Konanz is expected to introduce at the Jan. 19 council meeting — to base the budget on wholesale electrical rates for 2016 — will pass.
“We want to meet with the city to see if there is something else we can do. Summerland’s power rate is based on the wholesale rate and they have exactly the same power provider in Fortis.”
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015