The Kootenay Lake School District Board voted in the 2012/2013 annual budget at last Tuesday’s meeting, which superintendant Jeff Jones says is focused on sustainability and student needs.
“I’m pleased that the trustees have established a budget that will provide some predictability and sustainability from now into future years,” said Jones.
The board and finance committee have been considering possible budget scenarios since January and one key change in this budget is how they’ve decided to use the funding protection.
“They’ve recognized that the funding protection that we’ve received over the past number of years is beginning to be reduced by 1.5 per cent every year, and so they could no longer plan on that as a sustainable revenue source. The budget they approved recognizes that,” said Jones.
“That amount is going to be removed at some point in the future so the more that we continue to fund our district in that way and use that funding knowing that it will be gone one day is putting our district at a huge risk,” said board chair Mel Joy.
The approved budget cuts 19 full-time-equivalent teaching positions and the District Resource Centre.
“Teachers will still have access to the wealth of resources that are available… the service delivery model that we currently have is what’s going to change,” said Jones.
However, Tom Newell, president of the Nelson District Teachers’ Association, was at the Tuesday board meeting and urged the board to hold passing the budget until these issues could be sorted.
“It’s mind boggling, because we’re not over-staffed in this district and we have sat through nine or 10 of these finance committee meetings and every year we watch either status quo or cutbacks,” said Newell.
“In terms of the 19 full-time–equivalent positions throughout the district, we recognize that a number of those positions were supported by previous decisions of the board to use the funding protection to support current staffing levels. Our average pupil to teacher ratio is still below what the provincial average is,” said Jones, adding that based on their preliminary assessment, those positions will be dealt with through attrition. “We’re not anticipating a huge slew of layoffs in the district.”
Newell continued to show his disapproval of the staffing and resource centre cuts.
“I think the board made an incorrect decision in following senior management’s recommendation… 19 teacher reduction, zero administration reduction in a place of declining enrolment is unconscionable to the classrooms, to the support of teachers,” said Newell, adding that the resource centre has been something that the teachers support in a huge way.
Jones said there are still many things that can be celebrated about this budget. Initiatives and improvements in early learning, equipment upgrades, leadership development, technology to support learning among others are evident in the budget.
During Tuesday’s board meeting community members questioned the decision to add an administrative position in both Yahk and Jewett, but Jones explained that the additions of the vice -principals will be more efficient for the schools.
“We didn’t have an administrative presence [at these two schools.] We had teachers in charge and were relying on principals from the next closest schools and so although these teachers will be called vice-principals, they will still be teaching positions,” he said.
“I think it’s really key that the trustees recognize that in order to ensure sustainability to protect the decisions they’ve made about our small rural school and about our alignment of resources and focuses on student learning, they looked at many options over the past several months to determine how to best attend to those challenges.”