Edmonton

Forms for taxpayers to check 'public' or 'Catholic' are misleading, says school board chair

Catholic, public school or undeclared? Your property tax form gives you the option to check off your preference. Many Albertans likely believe that selecting one or another will translate into their tax dollars being sent to the district of their choice. Think again, says Michael Janz, chair of Edmonton public school board.

Alberta Education allots money to schools based on enrolment, not taxpayer preference

Edmonton school board chair Michael Janz says parents and community members are misled to believe their tax dollars are going to a specific district. (CBC)

Catholic, public school or undeclared?

Your property tax form gives you the option to check off your preference, even though it doesn't make a difference anymore.

Many Albertans likely believe that selecting one or another will translate into their tax dollars being sent to the district of their choice, said Michael Janz, chair of Edmonton public school board.

People may be under the impression, Janz said, that "where they designate their education property tax makes a financial impact on their schools, on the money to buy computers, to hire teachers or to construct new school.

"But it doesn't."

The Alberta government eliminated the practice of giving individual school boards the autonomy to use tax dollars in 1994.

Tax dollars go into a pool and Alberta Education distributes money to schools based on enrolment.

"The only metric that matters is how many kids attend your school," Janz said.

He said he plans to ask his school board to support a motion to have the boxes removed from tax forms — a move Education Minister David Eggen thinks is unnecessary. 

Education Minister David Eggen said he doesn't see any reason to remove the school district option from the property tax form. (Michelle Bellefontaine/CBC )

"We have a pretty established system for paying for public schools," Eggen said.

"Honestly, I don't see any reason to change the system by which we're paying for education," he said. "Education is coming from other sources, too, not just property taxes."

But Janz is convinced those boxes where taxpayers can check off their option lead to confusion.

"Even if another 100 people switch their property tax to, say, the public system in a new neighbourhood, it's not going to get the school built any faster," he said. "And it's not going to mean more funding to reduce classes sizes."

At the next public school board meeting on Feb. 28, Janz plans to ask his colleagues to support a motion to remove the boxes.

If they agree, the board will urge Alberta Education to take the boxes off property tax forms.