School budget consultations underway for 2012

Mona Mattei
By Mona Mattei
January 14th, 2011

Elections topped the agenda for the school board at their monthly meeting as Teresa Rezansoff was re-elected as board chair for School District 51’s board of trustees for the eighth straight year. In addition to their monthly board meeting, the district held two open finance committee meetings this week seeking input to their budget process from parents and the public.  At the budget meetings Secretary-Treasurer Jeanette Hanlon presented the current budget. With student enrolment down slightly this September, the funding received is lower than anticipated in their original projections, but other areas have been bolstered resulting in a balanced bottom line for this school year. Michael Strukoff, school superintendent, Vicki Gee and Ken Harshenin, school district trustees, and Hanlon were all at the budget meeting in Grand Forks at the school board offices on Wednesday, Jan. 12.  Hanlon explained that although the Ministry of Education told boards last year that funding protection for small school districts was to be lowered in the coming year, there has been some indication that they are planning to continue to provide the same levels in 2011/2012 as this year. Good news for rural areas, said Hanlon.  “Funding protection was brought into the funding formula to give districts the same amount of funding that we’ve had for the last four years,” explained Hanlon. “So we’ve lost enrolment but they’ve kept funding us at the same level so that’s been a good thing for our district. The Ministry also did say that they may keep funding protection for the (next) school year. It sounds encouraging that they’re going to keep it in but there’s no guarantees but we’re hopeful.”  But the board had to use some of their surplus funding to balance the books for the second year in a row, added Hanlon.  Looking forward to next year’s plan, Hanlon asked for initial input from parents, the public or students about what they would like to see in the programming. Some discussion at the meeting also included looking at the changing face of education and how to create a model that fits today’s fast-paced world.  “We’re teaching ‘things’ – we’re teaching content. Yet anybody with a handheld device can have access to all the information that’s available to humanity practically,” said Gee. “So we don’t need to teach them ‘stuff,’ they can look up stuff. What we need to teach them is how to deal with information and how to process it.”  Some budget priorities for the coming year will be any agreements from negotiations with both Canadian Union of Public Employees and the B.C. Teachers Federation both expected to take place in 2011. Strukoff explained that educators across the province are also interested in addressing graduation levels and working to change programming so more students are successful.  “The issue that our provincial leadership is looking at is how can we improve on (the 80 percent rate of graduation),” said Strukoff. “The things that we’ve tried have not resolved that issue for us. How do we stay competitive, how do we have a workforce that’s going to fill the needs of our society when we have fewer kids graduating and more people retiring? So those are some of the long term big picture questions that the government are asking themselves.”  Anyone interested in sending in their ideas for the budget is invited to download the form from: http://www.sd51.bc.ca/District%20Updates/Finance/Consultation%20For%20%20January%202011%202(1).pdf and send it into Hanlon.

The next steps in the budget process will be to start crunching the numbers for actual costs of staffing, infrastructure, etc. while adding in or changing current programming according to the feedback received. 

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