Earlier this week, School District 52’s Board of Education passed the third and final reading of the Amended Annual Budget Bylaw for the 2011/2012 fiscal year, but not before deciding how to spend $641,576 of surplus funds.
Management’s original recommendations included spending $45,000 on furniture and equipment replacement, $20,000 on IT advanced purchasing which would mean purchasing equipment early and having it up and running by September, $35,000 on a Kurzweil District Network License, $30,000 on IUOE staff training, $25,000 for teaching and support staff increases, as well as $60,000 on Soundfield Systems for grades kindergarten to grade 3, a sound amplifying system that will be installed in classrooms.
“It would be a very strong advantage for our younger students. It really helps them to hear the instructions and what’s happening in the classroom.” Secretary-Treasurer Cam McIntyre said of the Soundfield Systems.
Trustee Bart Kuntz echoed similar thoughts, saying “It’s going to be beneficial for our youth. They will be able to take in as much as they can.”
Additionally, the district will be putting $100,000 for the purchase of a new special needs bus to replace the district’s oldest bus, which is now eleven years old. The bus has been causing financial troubles over the past few years, so the board decided it would be in the district’s interest to replace it instead of pouring more money into it for repairs.
“We spent $20,000 [on the district’s oldest bus] in the last three years. It’s just due for replacement.” Explained McIntyre.
The largest amount of surplus funds to be recommended by management was $200,000 towards a band room at Charles Hays Secondary School. Due to the amalgamation of schools, the classroom previously designated for band has now been converted into a different course, leaving bands students having to travel to PRMS for their classes. A completely new band room is necessary, however the district cannot use the annual facility grants funding for the project, so in addition to the board’s contribution some sort of fund raising or donation collection will be needed.
Under the original options, the board was left $126,576 for contingencies, however that was quickly changed.
“I have a general concern with the money left over,” started trustee Marty Bowles, “I’ve stood at every budget meeting and said that the money belongs to the students that year. We always cry broke every year, and then every fall we always have a surplus. I would like to see us spend as close to zero left over as possible. To me that is good budgeting in any given year.”
The board then started to make amendments to the budget, the first of which being made by trustee Kuntz to put $20,000 of the surplus towards Aboriginal Content Initiatives.
The second amendment made to the budget was by trustee Janet Beil, who urged the board to put $20,000 towards a swimming program that would be allocated out to schools, something she deemed of great importance.
“We live in an area that’s surrounded by different types of water, i.e. the ocean, rivers, lakes. That should be an incentive to make sure that kids are protected.” Said Beil.
The swimming pool is already working with some schools in the district, providing no-cost programs, however not all students in the district currently have access to swimming instruction.
Superintendent Lynn Hauptman mentioned that the pool might not be able to accommodate all schools by the end of the school year.
“I am sure the staff at the pool [could accommodate] and make things work. I have asked them before about opportunities for the schools and they did mention the program that’s ongoing, and they did say they would like to be able to expand it as much as possible. Even if this is a one time purchase, which I sincerely hope it is not, we’re going to at least cover off some kids that otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity, and we might even save one of their lives.” Said Bowles.
Swimming programs have happened at various schools in the past, however the district did not have money for swimming programs in their original spending draft.
Trustee Terri-Lynn Huddlestone made the final amendment of the budget.
“I think it would be good use of our money to sent aside an additional $50,000 and increase the amount to $250,000 towards the band room.” She stated, with the rest of the board agreeing.
With the passed amended budget, there will be a remainder of $36,576 going towards future contingencies.