On Thursday, January 14th the Minister of Finance, Colin Hansen, provided some welcome news for schools, universities, and hospitals in BC. Hansen announced a new HST rebate that he says will protect schools, colleges and hospitals from paying more for supplies and services than they currently do with the PST.
The rebate will allow these institutions to make up the difference between what they would be paying in PSTs and what they will be paying under the HST.
However, when I spoke to a school trustee from Metro Vancouver, one who wishes to remain anonymous, he told me that this is only a partial win for school districts. He pointed out that this is a merely a “rebate.” Therefore, districts will still have to pay the higher amount of the HST and at a later date they will get a portion of their monies returned, but only after filling out all the paperwork associated with the rebate. This means that the already stretched school district administrative resources will need to be stretched even further in order to collect and organize the information related to the rebate.
Furthermore, on this issue he told me that municipalities do not have to pay the GST and yet school districts do pay GST. This results in the federal government taxing the monies provided by provincial governments to school districts.
In closing, I asked this school trustee why there is no public outcry amongst BC’s elected school trustees about these issues and other funding crises that so many districts are facing, I was told that in essence, the locally elected trustees live in fear of the Ministry of Education. I asked what this meant and he told me that most trustees around the province sincerely care about the public education system they were elected to administer. He added that there is a fear that if a trustee criticizes the Ministry of Education then they will see further malicious cuts by the Ministry to district education initiatives or projects.