A budget surplus of $1.4 million had the Prince Rupert School District (SD52) in a much more enviable position heading into discussions with school trustees at its most recent board meeting on April 11, compared to last year.
The 2016-17 cuts of $2.4 million axed the transportation budget, save for special needs bussing and a single bus to drive Port Edward and Metlakatla students due to last-minute funds.
That bussing will continue, but regular bussing will not be restored for the 2017-18 school year. However, a number of other initiatives were completed to the tune of $250,000 that the school board had at their disposal, after they put away $650,000 for contingency purposes to help their risk profile should any emergencies arise during the year.
Another $500,000 was put away for staffing reserves if the school district should see a sudden spike in enrolment.
“If we get increasing enrolment from the Fairview project or any of the construction that’s underway in September — if we had 200 more students show up, we would get no more funding because that would simply eat up funding protection (already implemented in the budget),” said SD52 secretary treasurer Cam McIntyre last week.
“And yet if you had 200 more students, you would have a need for 10 more teachers. So staff would recommend that you keep another half a million that you’d want to keep to address that risk.”
Board chair Tina Last added that last year’s ordeal has changed her thinking heading into next year.
“We know that we could be there again … I don’t want to have to make those huge cuts like we did last year,” she said. “I’ve always advocated we spend the money on the students that are in the seats today — until last year when we cut $2.4 million.”
The total operating budget for the 2017-18 school year is $25,519,816 and the district is receiving $1.35 million as part of the Classroom Enhancement Fund to restore class sizes and composition language in the teacher collective agreement. $188,288 of that will be used to restore a dayshift custodian position and provide additional release time for principals.
What has been added?
After keeping the surplus of $1.15 million to the contingency and staffing reserve savings, that left $250,000 for the board to assign to various projects and staffing needs.
For teacher recruitment and retention efforts, $30,000 was allocated to job fairs and moving assistance since every district in the province will be hiring more teachers due to restored language around class size and composition by the courts heading into next year.
As well, $25,000 was put toward Aboriginal Education Resources, $15,000 was spent on adding another day to school-aged therapy and $30,000 was added to the school supply budget. Assistant superintendent Ken Minette said that the supplies aren’t just pens and paper, but new tools and material necessary for a new hands-on curriculum B.C. is implementing.
A behaviour interventionist position was added, with $60,000 allocated to it, to help students with autism, mental learning disabilities and student specialization.
Teacher training and a mentorship program saw $18,000 allocated to restore and promote teacher training. Additionally, one non-instructional day was added to train educational assistants, at a cost of $10,000.
Flex funds and Teachers Teaching On Call (TTOC) was restored with $19,500 put toward training teachers that will most likely be coming from out-of-province.
Assistance with transportation and venue costs was added, with $20,000 added to that fund to boost extra-curricular activities.
A 10 per cent reduction in photocopies led to savings of $2,500, $20,000 was spent on innovative furniture to support the new curriculum and $5,000 was added to Student Voice, a survey through ThoughtExchange.
Restoring more administrative assistants, adding back 30 minutes to library time after school, restoring department heads from eight positions to 10, and filling the vacant assistant superintendent position were not added.