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School Site Procurement

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Resolution Category: 
Provincial Scope 12
Subject: 
Year: 
2019
Status: 
Adopted - Active
Sponsor(s): 
Morinville, Town of
Active Clauses: 

IT IS THEREFORE RESOLVED THAT the AUMA advocate for the relevant Government of Alberta departments (e.g. Municipal Affairs, Education and Infrastructure) to develop necessary legislation, policy, and procedures to ensure productive engagement with Alberta municipalities in the early stages of planning and announcing new school sites.

Whereas Clauses: 

WHEREAS the responsibility to provide school sites falls disproportionately to municipalities in accordance to the Alberta Municipal Government Act (Sections 661-677 specifically);

WHEREAS schools within an urban municipality not only serve the urban population, but also frequently serve rural populations. This places an inequitable burden on urban municipalities for the costs associated with not only providing the required school sites, but its associated infrastructure and related surrounding development uses;

WHEREAS urban municipalities face legislative constraints and market conditions that limit their authority/ability in terms of what can be required of developers in terms of future school sites and their development impacts and surrounding uses. It is often the case, that developers must provide the same;

WHEREAS the Province has both the ultimate responsibility and the resources to fund public education facilities, and not municipal tax payers; and

WHEREAS early engagement in the school site planning process would assist municipalities in preparing for what is required; for example, development planning, future development considerations, financial planning, and assisting with future school siting and surrounding use considerations in a manner that is timely and does not burden local taxpayers.

Resolution Background: 

The announcement of a new school for a community is great news. However, the excitement that surrounds the prospect of a new school usually puts a municipality in the position of scrambling to ensure a site that meets the expectations and needs of all parties involved, i.e. the province and the school divisions. Municipalities too often are not involved in the province’s and school divisions’ site planning until late in the process or not until after an announcement.  These circumstances can place a municipality under a great deal of pressure related to delivery of a school site, development considerations, and the financial resources required, which they often have not prepared for. Working with the province and the school divisions collaboratively, and earlier, in the planning process, would give municipalities a better opportunity to plan and prepare for the provision of future school sites. On-going dialogue would also help inform all parties involved, particularly the province, of the development realities and financial considerations that urban municipalities face in undertaking their roles in school site provision.

Government Response: 

Alberta Infrastructure responded on December 17, 2019 as follows:

The current planning process used by the Government of Alberta encourages school jurisdictions to establish site readiness, prior to submitting capital plans. As part of the approval process prescribed in the School Capital Manual, Alberta Education reviews and prioritizes school projects for the Provincial Capital Plan Submission, with technical input provided by Alberta Infrastructure. Education enters a planning phase prior to each school capital announcement to prioritize projects and ensure their viability. Site readiness is a primary consideration as part of this planning phase, which prompts jurisdictions to work with municipalities to establish site availability and address any potential risks or limitations, prior to project approval.

Current legislation requires advanced planning and collaboration between jurisdictions and municipalities. Joint use agreements prescribed by the Education Act, as well as planning and development requirements mandated by the Municipal Government Act, require liaison between municipalities and school jurisdictions in order to ensure that necessary arrangements are in place before initiating school projects. This legislation is intended to promote early and consistent communication between all parties, thus promoting project success.

We have had some challenges; for example, in 2014, government approved two new school projects for the Town of Morinville, Four Winds Public School and St. Kateri Tekakwitha Academy. At the time these projects were approved, the Town had not established ready sites. As a result, efforts to procure appropriate school sites for both projects were strained, resulting in project delays. Going forward, Alberta Infrastructure will continue to assess government policies and procedures on an ongoing basis to avoid repeating the same circumstances experienced by the Town of Morinville in 2014. 

Alberta Municipal Affairs responded on January 3, 2020 as follows:

The Municipal Government Act (MGA) provides a series of tools to assist municipalities in working with neighbouring municipalities and school boards to help plan for and manage school sites and facilities. The MGA provides the ability for municipalities to enter into joint-use and planning agreements (JUPAs) with school boards. JUPAs provide a framework to ensure municipalities and school boards are working collaboratively in the planning, assembly, design, development, and maintenance of school sites and facilities.

The MGA also requires municipalities with a common boundary to enter into Intermunicipal Collaborative Frameworks (ICFs) to provide for an integrated and strategic approach for the planning, delivery, and funding of intermunicipal services. Municipal Affairs will continue to work with municipalities, school boards, Alberta Education, and Alberta Infrastructure on providing a supportive framework for municipalities to implement JUPAs and ICFs.

AUMA Notes: 

Intent partially met – further action will be taken.

This resolution renewed an expired resolution AUMA members adopted in 2015, which called for a coordinated approach to School Site Procurement. As part of AUMA's work on the Municipal Government Act  (MGA) review and change management, we advocated for provisions requiring Joint Use and Planning Agreements (JUPA) between municipalities and school boards to be enacted.

Bill 8, An Act to Strengthen Municipal Government, 2017 included amendments to the MGA requiring JUPAs between school boards and the municipalities within which they operate. Most of these amendments were not proclaimed until 2019, and a few were left unproclaimed entirely. JUPA provisions were also included in Calgary's and Edmonton's 2018 City Charter Regulations.

Bill 25, Red Tape Reduction Implementation Act, 2019, which was given royal assent in December 2019, repealed remaining unproclaimed amendments to the MGA on JUPAs and added provisions on JUPAs to the Education Act. The amendments to the Education Act were proclaimed in June 2020.

At their February 27, 2020 meeting, the AUMA Board unanimously carried a motion put forward by the Municipal Governance Committee:

“THAT the AUMA Board:

1. consider the Government of Alberta’s responses to the resolution on School Site Procurement.

2. pursue improved coordination of school sites through working with the provincial government, RMA and the Alberta School Boards Association to develop a guide for Joint Use and Planning Agreements (JUPAs).

3. recommend that municipalities consider school sites in ICF negotiations; and

4. consider other tools that could support municipalities in pursuing improved coordination.”

AUMA met with staff from Municipal Affairs’ Planning team on March 11, 2021 to discuss supports for municipalities in developing JUPAs. They indicated that their team is preparing an Implementation Fact Sheet on JUPAs to assist municipalities, which will be posted on the Government of Albera's Open Portal when it is complete. They also noted that municipal staff may contact their Planning team by email or phone with questions about JUPAs (lgsmail@gov.ab.ca or 780-427-2225).

AUMA administration will assess the need for further supports for members following review of Municipal Affair’s resource. Advocacy staff have only received one JUPA-related inquiry (from a mid-size city) in the past year.

Municipal Affairs advised that based on amendments to the Municipal Government Act (MGA) made in 2019, municipalities must have JUPAs in place by June 2022 (three years from the proclamation of the MGA amendments).