Victoria grants $28,000 for crossing guards, seeks longer-term solution

Victoria will provide almost $28,000 in stop-gap funding to cover the cost of school crossing guards at several busy intersections for the remainder of the year.

Director of engineering Fraser Work said the crossing guards program is a regional issue and city staff will contact to other organizations, including school districts, as soon as possible because more funding will be needed in 2019.

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“I think we know how important these services are, particularly for children attending elementary school,” Coun. Ben Isitt said.

“I don’t think this is necessarily the perfect fix. I personally think this ultimately should be delivered through the education system but because of how constrained funding is for our public schools I think it is supportable,” Isitt said.

Coun. Margaret Lucas thought the city should approach other agencies first, such as the Ministry of Education, before agreeing to fund the program, saying there’s no incentive for other parties to get involved if the city has agreed to fund it.

“I am concerned that we should be talking to the Ministry of Education first. Then if they say no, then we decide whether we want to put the money up,” Lucas said.

Mayor Lisa Helps said she supports looking into a partnership between the Capital Regional District, interested municipalities, the Greater Victoria school district and the province to jointly fund the crossing guard program.

The cossing guards program fell into a funding void when it was dropped by Beacon Community Services. A new non-profit group — the Greater Victoria Crossing Guards Association — has incorporated to take over the program but its funding request comes mid-way through the municipal budget cycle.

Beacon Community Services didn’t apply for funding for crossing guards for this year because it knew it was going to be backing away from the program, Work said

The school district has indicated it has no funding for the program, he said.

City staff plan to report back on any possible regional options for a safer-way-to-schools program after having discussions with stakeholders, Work said.

Coun. Geoff Young wondered whether funding would be adequate given city council’s recent decision to support the Living Wage for Families Campaign which recommends city workers and its contractors’ employees be paid at least $20.50 an hour.

“That’s very considerably above the minimum wage that is built into these budget estimates,” Young said.

The city has funded the program through its grants program for a number of years.

Isitt said he would be happy to support a larger amount if necessary to meet the goals of the Living Wage for Families Campaign.

He said council’s recent endorsement was to support a living wage as a goal and directing staff to report back on how the city becomes a living-wage employer.

“So I think for future years we do want this to be a target when we’re contemplating grants — maybe compensating employees who aren’t currently making a living wage,” he said.

Helps cautioned against calling the crossing guards contractors. “This is not a contract. This is a grant that we’re giving in response to a group that’s organized and asked us for it,” Helps said.

Approved crossing guard posts are:

• Shelbourne and Ryan

• Bay and Forbes

• Hillside and Gosworth

• Hillside and Shelbourne

• Cook and Princess

• Fairfield and Irving

• Quadra and Tolmie

• Fairfield and Moss

• Michigan (near Douglas)

• Oswego and Simcoe

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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