Council offers “crumbs” to state-integrated schools

Catholic and other state-integrated schools in Hamilton are being offered “crumbs” from the Council’s table to offset development costs, the lawyer for Hamilton’s Catholic diocese says.

The diocese is challenging inequitable changes the Council is proposing for the city’s Development Contributions (DC) policy.

This policy sets out the DC levies developers have to pay. The money is used to contribute to the city’s infrastructure.

Presently, Hamilton’s state-integrated schools are treated like commercial developers. As such, they pay DCs when they develop their properties. State schools don’t. They are exempt.

When the Council first announced the policy last year, state-integrated schools faced paying 100 percent of the DC costs.

The Council has since proposed three updates to the policy, which include offering state-integrated schools a reduction for school developments.

The proposed change would see these schools get a partial remission – or discount – for developments that meet certain criteria such as public access and community benefit.

A submission from the Diocese to the Council in April set out its concerns about the DC policy’s unequal treatment of state and state-integrated schools.

A partial remission on DCs was better than nothing, but it’s not what the Diocese is was seeking, diocese spokesman Graeme Roil told the Council.

“We’re asking to be treated equally.

“The Catholic schools that I’ve got responsibility for represent around 4,000 students within Hamilton city spread amongst the five primary schools and two secondary schools.

“We consistently come across the barriers associated with development contributions when we bring classrooms up to the code set by the Ministry [of Education].”

One Councillor said the diocese’s submission seemed like an “all out attack” and didn’t acknowledge the proposed partial remission was a step in the right direction.

“Would you rather us (sic) didn’t do that unless we were going to do the whole lot?” he asked the Diocese’s lawyer, Kate Barry-Piceno.​

“If you’re saying, do you want some crumbs to be thrown at you when you’re starving, rather than a solid meal, then of course we’d take the crumbs,” Barry-Piceno replied.

The principal of St Joseph’s Catholic School says a discount on DCs would help create a level playing field among schools.

St Joseph’s has aspirations to build a hall that would be available for community use. However DCs could cause the project to be scaled back.

“The Catholic school network is full and there are waiting lists for each school. Our network needs the ability to grow and one of the stumbling blocks is the developer’s charges,” he says.

Hamilton’s councillors say they will consider feedback on the proposed DC changes on 3 June, ahead of the policy being adopted on 30 June.


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