Daycare rent rate relief voted down

Lexi Bainas, Cowichan Valley Citizen

The Cowichan Valley school board has nixed a suggestion that a lower rental rate of $540 per room per month be charged to daycares and other services operating out of Cowichan Valley School District facilities.

The subject of increasing the charges for daycares has been contentious, with some trustees seeing it as a way to generate much-needed revenue, with others objecting that any increases would be passed on to hard-pressed parents.

Board vice chair Hannah Seymour said at the June 20 meeting that budget discussion had ranged far and wide trying to keep cuts away from the district’s mandate of providing education for kindergarten to Grade 12 students.

Raising rental rates seemed an appropriate way to balance the budget, she said.

Trustee Ryan Bruce pushed the idea of a lower rate strongly, saying the board had received a lot of emails and a petition from parents and groups who would be hurt by an increase.

Seymour then asked him, “What are you willing to lose in our system to pay for this? It’s a trade off.”

Bruce expressed surprise at that, in light of the situation in which a budget with a considerable deficit had been submitted to the province.

“In this situation, what’s the point of trading off?” Trustee Duncan Brown said that daycare costs were at $800 four years ago.

“I think $650 is not out of line with other districts. We have budgeted on this revenue.”

Board chair Eden Haythornthwaite said that when the district recently signed a contract with the Cowichan Sportsplex she was embarrassed to find that facility had been absorbing inflation for the school district for five years.

“I believe these daycare centres charge a considerable sum. We have to remember our job is to look after K-12. These are private businesses functioning within our walls,” she said.

Trustee Cathy Schmidt objected, “we’re not in the hole on this. It’s becoming a money maker and we’re doing it on the back of parents and at the risk of losing kids.”

Bruce’s motion, and a subsequent attempt to offer the lower fee of $540 for strictly non-profit daycares was also rejected by a majority of trustees.