Thursday, May 15, 2008

Large budget cuts on the way for School District 52

"I don't know what options we have other than to scream as loud as we can because I don't know how you can cut $1 million out of staff without having a significant impact on students' education...The domino effect is huge."-- School District chair Tina Last, expressing the boards frustrations at the pending tough decisions to come

Calls for the community to rally around education have been made by the School District 52 school board, that after the Board met to discuss some of the hard decisions that will be on the way with a need to make major cuts to the school district's preliminary budget in June.
With little in the way of options in providing for the required funding for the District, staffing and other budget cuts are said to be on the horizon for School District 52, as the Prince Rupert school system faces a 2.1 million dollar budget shortfall for 2008-09.

In order to deliver a balanced budget, the school district must find ways to cut down on its costs and in what will prove to be the most controversial of the decisions to come, it's expected that 1 million dollars of that 2.1 million total will come in the way of staffing cuts.

With two schools scheduled to be closed over the summer, the staffing situation around the District will be the most watched of all the budget decisions that the school district will be forced to make before the September school year begins anew.

The board which admits that any ambitious ideas that they may have been planning for the School District will now have to take a back seat, now turns its attention to making a priority of the more routine efforts of just keeping the schools operating as best they can.
To best deliver the warnings of the serious nature of the pending budget concerns, Board chair Tina Last referred to the current financial situation as the "perfect storm".

It appears to be a storm which has teachers, support staff, administrators and parents looking for answers that don't seem to be easily provided, with concerns about such things as top heavy management, staffing cuts and much needed support for students, clashing with the cold reality that there is only so much money to go around, at least with the current funding formulas in place.

The Northern View had the first view of the budget deliberations with an article posted to their website on Tuesday.

Prince Rupert district must cut $1 million in staff costs
By Shaun Thomas
The Northern View
May 13, 2008

The Prince Rupert School District will have to cut a total of $2.1 million from this year’s budget in order to deliver a balanced budget for the coming school year, including a $1 million cut in staffing costs.

The $1 million surplus from last year is no more and that has combined with the need to fund the pay increases in the collective bargaining agreement that went into place in 2006/2007 to create what board chair Tina Last calls "a perfect storm" for the district.

"The things that have been hitting other districts are hitting us all at once...It's only in the last week that it has become loud and clear how big of an issue this is," she said, noting that she and other trustees were "still in shock.”

"I don't know what options we have other than to scream as loud as we can because I don't know how you can cut $1 million out of staff without having a significant impact on students' education...The domino effect is huge."

While the province included a line item for the labour settlement, secretary/treasurer Kim Morris says that the money for that comes from things like FTE funding and bussing.

"It's like getting a raise, but having the cost of living increase more than the raise so that you end up with less money in your pocket," she explained.

"We really had big plans and ideas of how to move forward and this has really taken the winds out of our sails for things we wanted to do in the district," added trustee Janet Mirau.

And while work on the budget will continue at the next budget committee meeting on May 28, in preparation for tabling a preliminary budget at the June meeting, Last and others are calling on the community to rally around this issue to send a message to Victoria.

"As a district we have a voice, but it is not as loud as a community voice because if the kids aren't getting educated then who suffers? The community does," said Last.

"Cutting $1 million out of the people who educate our kids will have huge ramifications, so we need the community to show their support."

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