Services continue to be offered for the time being through the former Malakwa Elementary school as the ramifications of a public vote against local government leasing the building are considered.
A referendum was held Saturday in Malakwa, giving residents an opportunity to vote on a proposed Columbia Shuswap Regional District bylaw that would have allowed the regional district to enter into a five to 10 year lease agreement with School District #83 to be responsible for the ongoing maintenance and operation of the former school which currently serves as the Malakwa Community Learning Centre. The result was 57 in favour, 152 opposed.
If approved, the bylaw would have required an annual $125,000 contribution through a property value tax levy.
CSRD Area E (rural Sicamous-Malakwa) director Rhona Martin says she now has to speak with the school district to determine what the next course of action will be. But she adds services currently offered through the building – the library, the resource centre and the post office, as well as the Malakwa Learning Academy – continue.
“I think what people weren’t understanding necessarily, was this was to pay for the operation of the facility,” said Martin, explaining a former lease for the building has expired and the school district isn’t really interested in leasing again to a non-government organization.
Martin says the referendum result suggests residents don’t want an increase in property taxes, that they’re already paying school taxes. But she stressed the referendum was not about schooling, it was about the building.
“The building is home to services, there’s the postal service, the library, the resources, so that’s what it was about,” said Martin. “Do you want to pay for those services or not? And I guess the people have said they don’t want to pay for those services, or they feel they’re already paying because they’re paying the school taxes. I’m not sure. It’s difficult to understand.”
One upside, noted Martin, was the strong voter turnout.