The Prince Rupert School District (SD52) received some much-needed good news this week.
After having to shave almost $2 million thanks to a budget shortfall for the 2016-17 school year, SD52 is receiving $123,861 from the Government of B.C. as part of $25 million found in administrative savings from school districts.
The funds are intended to go toward frontline services for students instead of having to be paid to the province as part of provincial charges. The savings were made possible by B.C. school districts reducing spending on administration costs and Education Minister Mike Bernier said that individual districts will have freedom of choice as to where that money is allocated.
“We are giving districts the ability to invest in their individual priorities. This provides a great opportunity for each district to spend the money in a way that will best meet the needs of the students of that district,” said Bernier in a news release.
For SD52, the $123,861 could bring back one or more of a number of items that had been cut to save money for 2016-17.
Most notably, the reduced elementary librarian hours involved a $70,000 cut or 0.7 full time equivalent (fte) hours from the area and went from $180,000 spent to $110,000.
The funds come up short though, in the student transportation discussion to restore school bus service, as $130,000 was saved in eliminating all yellow busses (minus the special needs bussing) and $160,000 was saved in cancelling ferry service for a select number of students, reaching a total of $290,000 in student transportation cuts.
SD52 secretary treasurer Cam McIntyre said the funds are welcome, but it’s still early to figure out where that money will be allocated.
“[Receiving the funds was] was pretty much a surprise,” said McIntyre.
“It’s very early. We have not yet discussed what we might do. Certainly we’ve been applying our budget and looking at things. We have a number of ideas but until we have a chance to meet as a management team and discuss it with the board, I don’t think we’ll be making any immediate decisions.”
The Ministry of Education emphasized to the districts that the funds be used for student support, with maintaining teachers, programs or school upkeep as possible areas of allocation.
“Our government is committed to ensuring that maximum education dollars go into services for students. Districts worked hard to reduce their administrative costs and we are pleased to be able to direct that $25 million back to programs and initiatives that will directly benefit the kids of B.C.,” said Bernier.