SD70 drowning in water taxi expenses

Water taxi expenses on the West Coast rose more than $100k in one year, prompting the Alberni school district to re-tender the contract.

The Alberni Valley School District has re-tendered its water taxi contract after costs leapt $100,000 in a single year.

While transportation cuts in the City of Port Alberni have focused on busing, one aspect that hasn’t received much consideration is the cost of transporting children living in remote communities on the West Coast to school.

It cost SD70 $400,000, or about $12,000 for each child to take a 10-minute water taxi ride between Meares Island and Tofino last year, the Alberni Valley News has learned.

The Tofino water taxi service picks up 25-35 children from the Village of Opitsaht, bringing them near the government dock in Tofino to attend school. The current water taxi has a capacity of 12 and makes three trips in the morning and afternoon.

School district 70 superintendent Cam Pinkerton blamed the high cost, which leapt by $100,000 in one year, on boat engine repairs and a lack of oversight by the school board.

“One of the reasons why we re-tendered this contract was because of the escalating cost,” Pinkerton said, explaining that massive cuts in provincial funding triggered an internal review of the school district’s expenditures.

“It sort of got away from us.”

The current contract ends June 30. The district is presently reviewing three proposals and a new five-year contract, with option to extend, will take effect in September. The school district will not be on the hook for boat repairs in the new contract.

According to numbers provided by school district secretary-treasurer Lindsay Cheetham, the water taxi bill was $306,000 in the 2009-2010 budget, jumping to $410,000 in 2010-2011 and remaining about the same last year. The final cost for 2012-2013 is not available yet.

In comparison, the school bus system costs about $750,000 and is used by 900 students, costing less then $1,000 per rider. That price tag includes wage, benefits, insurance, fuel and supplies.

“Boats are really expensive,” Pinkerton explained. “It’s 12 times more expensive than the bus.”

The water taxi contract was awarded to the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations eight years ago and the band subcontracted it to the actual service provider. The contract was originally for five years, but was extended three times.

Pinkerton added that student enrolment in Port Alberni has been dropping for the last 10 years, but Tofino has seen the opposite.

“Tofino is the only growth area in the school district,” Pinkerton said. “There were 125 students three years ago and now we have 201.”

Port Alberni will see a four per cent drop in enrolment this year, he added.

reporter@albernivalleynews.com

Just Posted

Island Health issues boil water advisory for Cherry Creek, near Port Alberni

Island Health has issued a boil water advisory for the entire Cherry… Continue reading

Heavy snowfall closes Mount Washington for the day

Road to ski resort deemed unsafe, “high avalanche danger”

Alberni Valley Community Foundation seeks grant recipients

The Alberni Valley Community Foundation is accepting applications for grants to be… Continue reading

BCHL: Bulldogs beat Cowichan in double OT

Teams are 1–1 in three-game home-and-home stand; play in Cowichan Jan. 20

Port Alberni city council to ‘stay on course’ for five-year budget plan

Next budget meeting is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 29 at 6 p.m

Floods, power lines down on Bamfield Road

Power outage affecting more than 400 customers

Philadelphia Eagles headed to Super Bowl

After routing the Minnesota Vikings 38-7, they will face Tom Brady and the New England Patriots

VIDEO: Dramatic video shows return of rescued B.C. snowboarders

Two snowboarders were rescued near Rossland, B.C. on Sunday after being lost overnight.

Tom Brady leads Patriots back to Super Bowl, top Jaguars 24-20

New England to face winner of Sunday night’s game between Minnesota and Philadelphia on Feb. 4

UPDATE: Ferries sailing again after stormy weather caused cancellations

B.C. Ferries cancelled numerous sailings around Vancouver Island today, Jan. 21

Homes, roads flooded in Whiskey Creek following downpour

Crews aid flooded homeowners while roads near Hwy 4 closed Sunday morning

Vessel washed ashore in Campbell River during last night’s storm

A vessel appears to have gotten loose and washed to shore on… Continue reading

Liberals quietly tap experts to write new paternity leave rules

Ideas include creating an entirely new leave benefit similar to one that exists in Quebec

Insurers say Canadian weather getting hotter, wetter and weirder

Average number of days with heavy rain or snow across Canada has been outside norm since spring 2013

Most Read