The Abbotsford School District estimates it will need to spend another $14.1 million on land acquisitions for more school space in the next 10 years.
The district hasn’t even gotten shovels in the ground on the newly funded elementary school on Eagle Mountain, and they’re already looking at potential locations for new school sites.
The estimation comes as part of the district’s analysis to inform its municipal government-enforced fees on new developments that increase the housing stock in the city, which may increase for the first time in 12 years.
According to a report to the board of education, the city expects 8,850 new development units in the next 10 years. The district estimates an increase of 2,439 students over that time, with 2,361 (90 per cent) of those students anticipated to be coming from those developments.
That increase would necessitate one new school site and one expansion over that time, requiring 4.56 hectares of land at an estimated cost of $14.1 million.
The district anticipates needing a 600-capacity middle school site, requiring 3.4 hectares of space. As well, the district currently owns a site suitable for a 900-capacity high school, but new modelling anticipates need for a 1,400-capacity school, requiring an additional 1.16 hectares.
Both sites would be in the east end of the district, in an area known as the McKee Peaks.
The district initially looked at updating its eligible school site proposal (ESSP) in 2016, but deferred the process until the city’s official community plan was completed.
The ESSP, passed to the City of Abbotsford and the Fraser Valley Regional District for approval, forms the basis for a fee paid by developers on construction that increases housing stock. That charge has not been increased since 2007, the school board heard recently.
No fee proposal has been made public yet, but a bylaw is expected to come before the board at their June 18 meeting, and the development fee would be updated 60 days from the adoption of that bylaw.
On average, the current charge in Abbotsford is about $355 per unit – that ranges from $266 for units in high-density developments to $444 for low-density developments.
That’s compared with a maximum charge of $600 for high-density units and $1,000 for low-density units, so the district has some latitude to work with if they do intend to raise that fee.
The school district is only allowed to raise one-third of the cost of school site acquisitions through the development fees. However, and once that amount has been raised, it will cease collecting the charges.