Lesson in college lease story

Dennis Mitchell says the college lease funding for Mildura schools should not be risked.

Dennis Mitchell says the college lease funding for Mildura schools should not be risked.

MILDURA must heed the lessons of Renmark before entertaining an overhaul of the college lease lands system, Ranfurly Primary School principal Dennis Mitchell says.

In both towns, the founding Chaffey brothers set aside land for the purpose of funding local agricultural colleges.

Today, college lease land in Mildura provides funds to primary and secondary schools, both government and non-government.

However, the Riverland town’s scheme is no more – the land was sold as freehold and schools no longer derive any benefit from the Chaffey brothers’ vision.

Some Mildura leaseholders have called for college lease lands to be made available as freehold, but school advocates say the Renmark example is a warning of what could happen.

Mr Mitchell said he was “absolutely fearful” the same scenario could play out in Mildura and put at risk a consistent source of funding to schools across the region.

“It’s substantial revenue that is raised specifically for the children and the education of children in this town,” he said.

“For me, I’m absolutely fearful that a political point of view in an election year potentially harms and impacts our children for many generations.”

Ranfurly Primary School has about 400 students and receives about $40,000 per year of college lease income.

Mr Mitchell said the funds meant his school was able to provide individual PC devices to children in Years 3-6 and about 50 iPads among Prep to Year 2 students.

“In many other environments outside Mildura, those burdens are carried by parents,” he said.

Mr Mitchell said he could see the issue from both sides and acknowledged the argument for reinvesting from the proceeds of freehold sales.

But he said the system as it stood put Mildura in a privileged position.

“I understand the potential possibility of selling the land and then investing it in a one-off payment,” he said.

“However, we’re guaranteed a return based on what’s currently going on, because those leases are purchased and owned, and I think that’s of huge benefit to the children and of huge benefit to our district.

“I think we’re pretty privileged in this town to have that.”

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