School districts to pay half the costs of seismic upgrades

Education Minister Peter Fassbender says 50 per cent of the cost of seismic upgrades for schools will now come from districts' operating surpluses and capital budgets.

Provincial government downloads cost of quake-proofing schools to local districts

Vancouver's Kitsilano Secondary School is undergoing a seismic upgrade to ensure it withstands an earthquake. The building was identified as one of B.C.'s schools most at-risk in an earthquake.

Just days after the province pledged to do more to prepare for an earthquake, it is downloading some of the costs of conducting seismic upgrades for B.C. schools.

Education Minister Peter Fassbender says districts will have to pay for up to half the costs of making their schools more earthquake-proof.

"Some districts have excess capital surpluses in their budget and so what we're doing is we're working with them as we look at seismic and other capital projects," said Fassbender.

He says the auditor general was clear in his report on the state of the provincial government's earthquake preparedness that surplus sitting in accounts should be put to capital projects. The ministry will work with school districts on a case-by-case basis.

The Ministry of Education paid the entire cost of seismic upgrades in schools in the past, spending $1.6 billion over the last 13 years on seismic upgrades to 168 schools. The change in policy caught districts and school trustees by surprise.

"The reality is that some of those seismic projects will definitely slow down," said Wayne Hunter, chair of the Saanich School Board.

Hunter says his district will be forced to spend its $2.4 million capital surplus to seismically upgrade one school, and no other maintenance projects will get done.

The provincial government has earmarked $500 million for seismic upgrades to 45 schools.

The South Coast of B.C. and Haida Gwaii have the highest risk of an earthquake in B.C. (B.C. Auditor General )