Based on a Labour Party survey of water charges in each local authority area, schools in Castlebar and around the county could face an average increase of 100 per cent in their water bills if water conservation measures are not introduced immediately according to Labour Councillor Harry Barrett.
Cllr Barrett stated: “The 1st of January 2010 saw the start of metered water charging in every school across the country and unless water conservation measures are taken to reduce consumption, schools could face massive rises in their current water charges. Minister for Education and Science Batt O’Keeffe has repeatedly told schools to make their capitation grants stretch further. This is just one example of where schools will have to face higher costs but with no extra help from the government to cover the cost. There were no increases in the capitation grants for schools in last December’s budget.”
Under the old system, schools were charged a flat rate of €4 per pupil per year. In a typical primary school of 250 pupils, this would work out at €1,000 per year. Now that metered water charges are introduced, schools could face an average cost of €2,005 a year.
The Department of Education estimates each pupil uses an average 3.5 cubic metres of water a year, but says that 2.1 cubic metres should be best practice. However, even if best practice is achieved, the average charge for a school is still likely to be €1,203 per year. That is an average increase of 20 per cent on the 2009 flat rate and still a big increase in costs to schools.
“I will be calling on the Minister to ensure schools will be informed by local authorities of what practical steps they can take to minimise their costs and that they understand the new situation with water charges. It’s important to ensure that the running costs of schools don’t spiral out of control as the new term begins,” Cllr Barrett concluded.