Hydro hike: Chilliwack school district weighs its options

An increase in hydro rates is the latest cost the Chilliwack school district is trying to deal with.

The Chilliwack school district's hydro bill is expected to climb by nearly a quarter-million dollars over the next five years

Chilliwack school district doesn’t know where it will find the $103,000 more needed to pay for the 15.6 per cent BC Hydro rate hike over the next two years.

The school district currently pays $803,500 in electricity. This year it will pay $18,000 more, and next year $85,000 more.

By 2019, when the increase will total 28 per cent more than the current rate, Chilliwack school district will be paying close to a quarter of a million dollars in electricity fees.

The B.C. Education Minister has made it clear there will be no financial assistance coming from the government.

Which has left the Chilliwack school district once again scrambling to find efficiencies to pay for the added expense.

Already this year Chilliwack has faced several unexpected costs.

A byelection, that cost an estimated $50,000; the implementation of early French immersion at $600,000; and a CUPE salary increase at $700,000.

Without the CUPE increase, the school district would have had the funds needed for the hydro increase through its “aggressive” energy savings plan that accumulates an approximate five per cent savings annually. But that money’s since been earmarked for the CUPE increase.

“We had most of the money through our savings, but now we’ve lost that,” said Slykhuis. “It just means another cost pressure for us.”

Peter Fassbender, minister of education, has publicly suggested school districts look at closing schools that are operating below capacity as a cost-savings measure.

But Chilliwack does not have that option.

“Our schools are full … most are bursting at the seams,” said Slykhuis.

Slykhuis said his objective now is to look at all areas for savings and efficiencies.

“That said, it’s still going to be very hard to find these savings,” he said.

kbartel@theprogress.com

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