The Okanagan Similkameen School District has rejected a Town of Osoyoos proposal to help with operational funding if the District reverses its course and keeps Osoyoos Secondary School open.
In a letter delivered to the Town this morning, the District also all but accused Osoyoos Council of creating an environment of conspiracy-mongering, bias and even illegal acts among Osoyoos residents.
“After careful consideration, the Board has determined it must decline your offer of financial assistance,” the letter signed by Board chairperson Marieze Tarr reads.
The letter comes in response to a Town of Osoyoos offer to ask Town ratepayers to pony up $1.056 million over the next three years in “order to retain the services” of Osoyoos Secondary School.
The Town also offered to provide additional services and discontinue charging water and sewer fees to further reduce District operational costs. It also pledged to seek similar concessions from other local municipal governments.
The District provides numerous reasons for its decision, including:
- the proposal is not “consistent with the spirit and intent of the School Act funding provisions.” The letter suggests allowing the Town of Osoyoos to contribute additional funding for the betterment of its schools and students might lead to a have and have not situation based on “affluence and ability to pay.”
“If the Board were to permit a municipality to subsidize its operating budget through the imposition of additional taxes, this could, in our view, result in precisely the type of inequity the School Act is intended to avoid,” the letter reads.
- The proposal requires the Board to suspend its decision to close Osoyoos Secondary without a “concrete assurance” that funding will be received.
“If rejected by electors, the Board would be placed in an untenable position, as it would be required to submit a balanced budget without the cost savings that have been identified as necessary to this process.
“This would put the district in the position of making decisions that are not in the best interest of students, resulting in further reductions to their educational programs.”
- The offer is contingent on Osoyoos Secondary School remaining open and requires support from other local governments within the school district.
“It is not known if other local governments are aware of this contingency, nor if they are interested in involving themselves in the financial decisions of another locally elected body,” the letter reads.
The letter also indicates collective bargaining requirements would not allow the District to “contract out” operational and manpower responsibilities such as lawn mowing and snow removal.
“However, if it is possible for the municipality to discontinue charging water and sewer fees to the District, we would be pleased to accept this offer of assistance to help address general budgetary constraints.”
The letter closes with an admonishment to the Town and its Council:
“[T]he Board remains concerned by the increasingly threatening and accusatory tone of the ongoing correspondence by the Town of Osoyoos,” it reads.
“Letters that encourage residents and the public to speculate conspiracy, bias and illegal acts on the part of trustees and staff of the school district, and accompanying threats of legal action, are not consistent with the assertion that council wishes to work with the Board in a cooperative and respectful manner.”
Mayor Sue McKortoff, responding to the Board’s letter, said she was surprised by the response to the Town’s correspondence.
“I went back and hauled out all the letters that the Town has written . . . and I was really offended by that,” said Mayor McKortoff.
“I do not see anywhere that the Town’s letters have conspiracy, bias and illegal acts. I do not know where that’s coming from.
“I’m not even sure where to go with this next.”
The Board is expect to vote Wednesday evening on a third and final reading of a bylaw that would close Osoyoos Secondary and send students to South Okanagan Secondary in Oliver.