CANMORE – “When it rains, it pours,” said Canadian Rockies School board superintendent, Chris MacPhee, at the last board meeting after the topic of insurance premiums arose.
The school board was recently informed its property insurance is to rise 217 per cent, resulting in an unexpected $166,000 increase to its budget.
“Our annual cost just for property insurance is $73,000,” said CRPS board treasurer, Mike Guindon.
“So that increase alone is another $166,000 – that’s [the salary of] a teacher and two teaching aids.”
The information came after the board already received a hard blow regarding the funding formula for Exshaw School that’s put them at a $1.6 million shortfall for the 2020-21 school year.
Guindon said the insurance provider indicated it is because it sees Alberta as a “high risk market.”
“When they explain it, they say two things impact premium increases; frequency of claims and extremity of claims,” said Guindon. “In Alberta, we’ve been pretty much hit with the perfect storm on that one.”
Alberta is considered a high-risk province for insurance because of the events that take place here like wildfires, for example.
“In the last four to five years, we’ve seen floods and wildfires. Based on the industry experts who are acting as consultants for this ASBIE pool, we have 50 per cent of Canada’s catastrophic events,” said Guindon.
Alberta School Boards Insurance Exchange (ASBIE) is the province’s largest school board insurance and risk management provider. Guindon said since discovering the increase, the board has been looking into different providers to see if there’s a lower quote available.
“We’re looking at all our options for insurance at this time,” he said. “Essentially [doing our] due diligence to see if there’s any other insurance providers that can provide it at a lesser rate.”
During the Oct. 15 public school board meeting, concerns were expressed over the increase.
"I didn't believe it," said MacPhee during the meeting.
Guindon told the board insurance experts have predicted this, though to the extent of 217 per cent is still a shock. Additionally, MacPhee and Guindon have been notified by email from ASBIE there is a one-year exit clause, meaning the board will have to pay the increase for the next year at least, regardless of the short notice given.
"In addition they are now hiding behind their agreement clauses, but in the spring led us to believe the increases would be minimal at best," wrote MacPhee in an email.
Should CRPS be unable to find insurance at a lesser rate, the increase of $166,000, bringing the total budget for insurance up to $239,000, could possibly mean the loss of jobs. Guindon is hopeful, however, that something will work out.
“I’m hoping we can look back and say ‘I’m glad we were able to figure that out,’ ” he said.
The Outlook has contacted ASBIE on this issue, but did not receive a response.