The District School Board of Niagara has asked the Town of Fort Erie to kick in $3.7 million to fund an arts theatre and a shared library in a high school slated to open in September 2017.
An open house to gather public input was held on Jan. 20 in the Town Hall’s atrium. But before councillors make a decision to commit the funds, they want to hear more input from the public.
Members of the community are invited to speak about the project during the Feb. 9 council meeting which begins at 6 p.m. at town hall.
The DSBN has asked the Town for $3 million to pay for the theatre and an additional $650,000 to build a shared library.
According to a report issued by town staff, the money to pay for both projects could either come from fundraising efforts, borrowing the sum required to pay for the projects or increasing property taxes.
If council decides to increase taxes to pay for the projects, it could mean an 18% hike spread out over 2015, 2016 and 2017.
Ward 4 Coun. Butler asked council to consider hosting an open forum because she feels it's important to give residents a chance to share their thoughts on the project.
“I think this is a great idea,” Butler said about supporting the construction of an arts theatre and library.
“But there are people who stand on both sides of the fence and they need an opportunity to voice their opinions.”
Butler also asked that the Town extend an invitation to the DSBN to send a representative from the school board to give a presentation about the project.
Councillors debated about when the public forum should be held. With the exception of Ward 5 Coun. Don Lubberts, councillors agreed Feb. 9 would give them the appropriate amount of time to make a final decision.
Lubberts said he felt “uncomfortable” hosting the forum on Feb. 9 because it would mean councillors would need to make a decision immediately following the public forum to in order to meet the DSBN’s deadline.
Mayor Wayne Redekop said councillors have until Feb. 15 to make a decision about whether or not to support both projects.
Redekop said he felt it was necessary to give the public enough notice to attend the forum.
“We know what is being proposed and what has been asked of us,” he said. It would make sense to give residents a chance to speak, he added.
“Let’s hope that in the spirit of co-operation that the DSBN wouldn’t mind a two-day smudging of the extension that would give us a week (following the open forum) to make a final decision.”
He said he also wanted to make the public aware that there are other alternatives to fund both projects that would alleviate the burden on taxpayers.
“There is fundraising, grants and other alternative sources of revenue that the public is not aware of,” Redekop said.
If council decides to provide the funding, the DSBN requires the money by 2017.
Greater Fort Erie Secondary School will be built at 1640 Garrison Rd., right across from Town Hall.
The DSBN approved the purchase of about 15 acres of land from the Fort Erie Golf Club for $1.6 million.
Last summer, the he Ministry of Education announced a $25 million funding grant in support of the new school build.
Fort Erie Times