Funding has been allocated for a new high school in Stratford and a new elementary school in Sherwood in the latest $156.6 million capital budget announced by Finance Minister Heath MacDonald on Friday morning.
The 2019-2020 capital budget will allocate $38 million for the construction of a high school in Stratford and $19.1 million for the new elementary school in Sherwood – both over the next four years – and places an emphasis on new programming in education, affordable housing, mental health and transportation. The budget eclipsed last year’s $134 million capital budget by $22 million.
During public meetings over the fall, the Public Schools Branch had recommended the province fund either a new combined intermediate-high school or a high school in Stratford. In the end, a new high school will be constructed, but students may still have to attend intermediate schools in the Charlottetown area after the high school’s projected completed in 2023.
In a media statement, MacDonald said the new funding investments come at a time of strong economic growth on P.E.I.
“During the past three years, our government has focused our efforts on building a strong economy while investing in Islanders. Mission accomplished,” MacDonald said in a speech before the legislature on Friday morning.
The province announced a record operating surplus of $75.2 million for 2017/2018, after recording significant increases in sales and corporate tax revenue.
In addition to the funding announced for the Stratford high school and Sherwood Elementary, the budget includes $25.2 million in funding for capital additions to Island schools. This includes $4.7 million over two years for new classrooms in West Royalty, $5 million for additional classrooms at Stratford Elementary, $8.9 million to complete improvements to École-sur-Mer in Summerside and $5.6 million for classrooms at Lucy Maud Montgomery Elementary.
The budget also includes $2 million in funding for technology improvements to Island classrooms and $2.1 million for the purchase of 20 new school buses. In addition, $500,000 has been allocated for a comprehensive school infrastructure review for both the Public Schools Branch and French Language School Board.
In housing, the province has allocated $16.8 million for the construction of new affordable housing units over the next two years. This includes the construction of 32 new senior units in Summerside and the construction of 20 new transitional units for victims of family violence in Charlottetown. Both projects will be assisted by over $3 million from the federal government’s Social Infrastructure Fund.
On healthcare, the budget allocates $30.9 million to capital improvements in the coming year, as well as $100 million over the next five years to build new facilities, with a distinct focus on mental health programming.
These will include a new Mental Health and Addictions Emergency Department and Acute Stabilization Unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown as well as an Acute Mental Health and Addictions Hospital at Hillsborough Hospital. Full details of these facilities have not yet been finalized.
Other mental health service improvements include a new structured housing unit and adult day treatment program site, four new community access centres in communities across P.E.I., new mental health residential services and a new e-mental health solutions service.
In addition, the province will also spend $7.2 million for a replacement of the picture archiving and communication system, which is used to store diagnostic images. The system was developed 15 years ago and is due for a replacement, according to MacDonald.
In terms of infrastructure, the province will invest $56 million in the next year to improve highways and bridges. Six bridges will see improvements, including the Searletown Bridge.
$17-million dollars of this funding will be allocated to the ongoing construction of the new Cornwall Bypass, due to be completed by October 2019.
In addition, $730,000 will be allocated this year to the installation 18 electric vehicle charging stations across P.E.I. Six of these charging stations will be level-3 fast chargers while the other 12 will be level-2 chargers.
On climate change, the budget allocates funding for biomass heat installations in 20 public buildings, including schools, health facilities and government offices. In addition, propane boilers will be installed at the Georgetown and Englewood school over the next few months.
The 2019-2020 Capital Budget in a nutshell
- $156 million total
- $25.2 in capital additions for Island schools
- $16.8 million for affordable housing over next two years
- $30.9 million in capital spending for healthcare
- $56 million in highways and infrastructure