To better understand the situation facing the Okanagan Similkameen School District, it helps to have an understanding of how the district receives funding.
Residential property owners in British Columbia annually contribute school taxes to the province as part of their property tax bill.
The tax isn’t based on whether or not you or your family use the public or private school system. Instead, everyone pays because the education system is seen to benefit all B.C. residents, including people without children in school.
If your property is located within the Town of Osoyoos, your school tax is included with your municipal tax bill. If your property is in Area “A,” you pay school tax to the province’s Surveyor of Taxes.
Each year, the province sets the residential school tax rate for each school district based equally on the total number of residences in the district and the total residential assessed value in the district.
Generally, these rates increase each year based on the previous year’s provincial inflation rate.
The province also sets school tax rates for non-residential property classes.
For 2015, the residential school tax rate for Okanagan Similkameen is 2.6226. That means, if you own a residential property, you paid $2.62 for every thousand dollars of your property’s assessed value.
According to provincial documents, in 2015 residential school tax rates ranged from a low of 1.1335 in West Vancouver to a high of 4.7689 in Haida Gwaii.
In Okanagan Similkameen, our school tax rate was just above the provincial average of 2.5689 for B.C.’s 60 school districts.
School tax rates are set by the province once per year, on or before May 4 — after the province has announced funding levels for its 60 school districts. The province projects expected school tax revenues as it prepares its annual budget earlier in the year.
School tax revenue does not go directly to the school district. Rather, it is collected by the province and delivered back to the district in the form of an education grant.
It’s important to note that school taxes collected in a local district account for about 34 percent of the education grant delivered to a school district by the Ministry of Education. The remaining 66 percent is comprised of funds from other revenue sources available to the province.
The Okanagan Similkameen school district, for example, is budgeting to receive about $23.3 million from the Ministry of Education for 2016/17, even though only about $13.3 million will be collected locally in school taxes.