Background On Public Education Funding
The property tax component of public education funding in Nova Scotia has been a topic of considerable interest. Below is background information prepared by the Department of Education.
Mandatory Education Tax Rate (MET):
The bulk of school board funding comes from two sources: the provincial government and contributions from property taxpayers mandated by the Education Act. The latter amount is determined by the province, which sets a property tax rate known as the Mandatory Education Tax Rate (MET). All property owners in Nova Scotia pay the same rate, currently $0.3510 per $100. The municipalities collect this property tax on behalf of the province and remit the revenue to the school boards.
Although this tax is called the minimum municipal contribution, it is not a tax on municipalities. It is a property tax specially targeted to education, collected by the municipalities because they already collect a property tax. The province could collect this tax directly, but that would create unnecessary duplication.
The valuation of properties for this purpose, known as the uniform assessment, is conducted by Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.
The mandatory education funding helps provide a consistent level of educational funding to all Nova Scotia students, no matter where they live and go to school. It has been in place for many years, and is common across the country. Education funding raised through property taxes in Nova Scotia is lower than most provinces in Canada. For example, in Nova Scotia property taxes account for about 15 per cent of school funding, compared to British Columbia at 28 per cent and Ontario at 41 per cent. (A detailed comparison was prepared for Finding the Balance, the report of Saskatchewan's Commission on Financing K-12 Education, and released on Jan. 8. Table 15 from that report can be downloaded from the website at http://ednet.ns.ca/index.php?sid=261797574&t=sub_pages&cat=23 . See attachment A, column C.)
Attachment B, at the same URL, shows Nova Scotia's municipal contribution over the past three years. The figures are slightly lower than those in Finding the Balance because Nova Scotia includes more costs in its calculation.
The 2004-05 Budget Process:
The MET rate was announced on budget day in April as $0.3510 per $100 of uniform assessment. The rate has been the same since 2002. All boards were advised of their minimum funding so they could move ahead with their budgeting process.
As with any budget process, the Department of Education based its 2004-05 revenue and expense forecast on the best information available. When the budget was drafted, the preliminary uniform assessment was $41,999,264,000. The department then estimated the minimum municipal contribution based on the same MET rate used in the previous two years. After taking all estimated income into account, it was clear there would have to be reductions in public education services. Text books and property services were among the areas where reductions were made.
After the budget was prepared, the final uniform assessment came in at $42,764,334,000. The higher uniform assessment meant that applying the same MET rate yielded $2.7 million more from property owners than estimated in the budget. Because this money was needed -- the school boards had already been told to expect service reductions -- the Department of Education recommended to cabinet that the MET rate be left unchanged.
Cabinet confirmed the MET rate on June 3. This meant the department was able to restore funding to some of the areas that had been targeted for reductions.
In the previous year, the uniform assessment came in lower than estimated, and the province covered the resulting $877,400 shortfall. Legislation has now been passed to ensure that uniform assessment information from municipalities is filed on time.
The Halifax Regional School Board also benefits from supplementary education funding. The Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) is allowed to collect this tax under Section 530 of the Municipal Government Act. There is no relationship between this funding and the MET.
Supplementary funding was enabled at the request of HRM and its predecessors. The purpose is to allow the municipality to supplement the minimum funding flowing to the school board. Halifax is the only board with such an arrangement.
The legislation allows HRM to unilaterally reduce the supplementary education tax by up to 10 per cent per year. This is intended to ensure any elimination of supplementary education funding would be gradual. The reduction can be faster by agreement between the Halifax Regional School Board and the municipality. Section 530 of the Municipal Government Act is available as Attachment C at http://ednet.ns.ca/index.php?sid=261797574&t=sub_pages&cat=23 .
It is important to remember that the funding formula deals with how funds are allocated to our school boards, not how they are raised. Because demographics and geography impose different costs on each board, the formula can be complex. For instance, some boards have to bus relatively higher proportions of their students to school.
Typically, the cost of delivering the same services to students is higher in rural areas than in the cities.
Bill Hogg, former deputy minister of finance, is reviewing the funding formula in consultation with the school boards and the public. The implementation of the new formula should begin in 2005-06.
- Provincial and Territorial Comparison of Funding Sources for Education
- Public schools education funding
- Section 530, Municipal Government Act
jal June 15, 2004 2:39 P.M.