Port Edward going to referendum over school borrowing bylaw

Residents in the District of Port Edward will be voting in a referendum on May 7 to see whether or not council has the support needed to borrow $2 million over 25 years to build a new school in the community.

Residents in the District of Port Edward will be voting in a referendum on May 7 to see whether or not council has the support needed to borrow $2 million over 25 years to build a new school in the community.

Council made the decision to go to referendum on Tuesday night after residents launched a successful counter-petition campaign. It also comes just a week before a special meeting of the school board of the Prince Rupert School District to decide the fate of the school in the community, with council saying they will ask for an extension.

And while the referendum is over a month away, chief administrative officer Ron Bedard, who was appointed Chief Electoral Officer for the referendum, says he is  confident it will go through.

“When you look at the petition and the people that signed it, around 80 per cent of people I would say are over 50 without children in town…I also got seven letters from people asking that their name be taken off the petition they signed, and if you really look at it only five people were so opposed to it that they came into the office to sign,” he said.

“A lot of people signed the petition without all of the information. My belief is that if we go to referendum and get the information out there, with perhaps another open house, council will get the mandate they require.”

The official question is as follows:

“Are you in favor of the District of Port Edward adopting the following bylaw: Port Edward Elementary School Loan Authorization Bylaw 513, 2011 authorizing the District of Port Edward to borrow an amount not to exceed $2,000,000 repayable over a maximum of 25 years  for the purpose of constructing and doing all things necessary to construct a new elementary school to be attached to the existing Municipal building in the District of Port Edward. Yes or No?”

However, council said they will do their best not to have to borrow the full amount by seeking out grants to aid in the construction.

“Councils I have worked for in the past were always prudent with money and how they work things. Can say that it has been that way in my 18 years and I don’t see that changing. If we don’t have to borrow the full $2 million we won’t and we will work our butts off to try to not have to borrow the $2 million…Hopefully our total exposure on this project is about $1 million,” said Bedard.

“We’re also in a good position to have this paid back in less than 25 years and still be in a really good financial situation…There is not a heck of a lot of risk involved in this,” said councillor Knut Bjorndal, adding that he expects another $100,000 in taxes from industry and new developments by the time the district would have to start paying back the loan in 2013.

The May 7 date was chosen to allow time for appropriate notification and procedures to be put in place.