The District of Fort St. James doesn’t want to put local taxpayers on the hook for a business venture, at least not without more information.
School District 91 has started its own subsidiary company to explore creating overseas schools in China, so Chinese students can pay to earn a B.C. Dogwood Diploma.
The company is School District 91 Business Company, and headed by Ray LeMoigne, the company is working hard on education initiatives in China and has signed memorandums of cooperation with two Chinese education bureaus.
The agreement includes educational partnerships in the form of twinning of schools, student and cultural exchanges, teacher exchanges and training programs, and the creation of B.C. Certified Offshore Schools.
The offshore schools would be established over the next three years, and are projected to generate up to $6 million annually within five years.
One-third of this income would go towards the hosting of some Chinese students in local communities while they pursued their education.
However, the company needs start-up money to build the schools in the order of $1.5-2 million.
The company is therefore asking for the local communities of Fort St. James, Burns Lake, Fraser Lake, and Vanderhoof, along with the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako to provide joint funding via some of the Northern Development Initiative Trust, which is money the provincial government has provided for a grants and loans program for northern communities.
The money would come from the loan allotment portion of the trust and be given as a loan to the School District 91 Business Company, at the rate of prime plus one per cent.
The company is requesting $300,000 come from Fort St. James’ allocation of potential loan funds.
The subsidiary company has asked council to sign a letter of support for accessing the funds.
But the council was concerned this could limit their ability to access any necessary funds for local projects or emergencies.
Mayor Sandra Harwood said she’s “not saying it’s a bad idea but we need more information,” pointing out they have not yet seen any business plan as yet, and there were concerns the community would be liable for any default of the loan should the start-up fail.
The issue has been tabled pending more information from the school district company.