Ten to 15 students at Signal Hill Elementary School are going without lunch every day, and two to five go without breakfast, Village of Pemberton Council heard at the regular council meeting of Oct. 2.
The school requested, and was granted, $1,000 for the 2012/2013 school year from the VoP's Community Enhancement Fund in support of its lunch program in order to ensure youngsters would not go hungry, and to facilitate their participation in school.
Sue Henry, an administrative assistant at Signal Hill Elementary who helps run the program, said the school had spent $3,123 on the program in the last two years; 14 letters had been mailed requesting funding support, she said.
"We find the lunch program very important in our school because there are children who show up daily with no lunches, or they've just forgotten their lunch. Our whole lunch program is run on donations so we really rely on donations from the community," Henry told council.
"This is really pretty fundamental stuff. It's unfortunate that people can't get to school with food in their belly. It's pretty darned important," said Pemberton Mayor Jordan Study.
"Is it our responsibility? Frankly, no, but morally I think we do have the responsibility."
Henry explained to council that Signal Hill Elementary had no money in its budget for a lunch program, but that if the community did not support it, the principal could find money from a discretionary principal's account.
"Maybe we should be challenging the school to fund the amount that we're going to contribute. I know that's tough, but at the same time the school district has to step up, too, because the program benefits the school," said Councillor Ted Craddock. "I'm a little concerned about that."
Henry said that while the school hasn't been buying food, it did support the lunch program by allowing staff to administer it. She added that Pemberton Food Bank has also donated food it has had leftover in the past, such as bread, but was not able to do so currently.
Council is also having correspondence sent to the SLRD Electoral Area C director, the Mount Currie Band, the N'Quatqua Band, the Samamquam Band, Signal Hill Elementary and Sea to Sky School District No. 48, to request their support of the school lunch program.
Tax exemption for Lions assisted living complex
Council passed a one-year permissive tax exemption request from the Pemberton Lions Society for its 30-unit affordable housing/assisted living accommodation in the village, with caveats.
It is worth an exemption of $7,000 for the accommodation in terms of village taxes, and up to $19,000 given expectations that further taxes due to the province and other tiers of government would also be exempted.
However, with no representative from the Lions Society present and Councillor Alan Leblanc recusing himself because of his involvement in the society, the remaining council had questions. Little time was available to ask them, however, with the society requiring a decision for exemption by Oct. 31, due to provincial tax deadlines. This will mean calling a special council meeting on Oct. 23 to deal with the issue.
Sturdy said that keeping the tax exemption to one year would be preferred followed by "asking them to come back with a set of books" as other organizations receiving exemptions would.
The request was passed, but Pemberton Lions Society will be required to submit a request for future exemptions by the end of June 2013.