SD8 puts surplus money toward facilities and staffing in new budget
Facilities and teacher staffing headline two major philosophical changes to the school district’s newly minted budget as the board of education searches for answers to facility funding shortfalls.
In its budget — released last week — School District No. 8 (Kootenay Lake) the board of trustees elected to not add any surplus dollars to revenue, a sum that has historically been around $400,000.
“The board is facing significant facilities requirements over the coming years and once the board passes its facilities plan, significant investment will need to be made in SD8’s facilities,” said school district superintendent of schools, Jeff Jones in a press release.
He noted that all operating surplus will be allocated to local capital for “future investment in renovations, new space construction and improvement to learning environments in SD8.”
It was also noted that the board decided “where funding became available or was identified in the bare bones budget,” it will be allocated to teacher staffing.
The preliminary budget for the 2016-2017 school year is in the amount of $59.4 million.
Jones said the 2016-2017 budget did not come without its challenges.
“As in any budget year, the board was not able to fulfill all of the very important initiatives and staffing requests put forward,” he said.
Two priorities were at the forefront of the board’s mind during this budget process: looming facility pressures, responsibilities and liabilities; and the desire to put as much staffing into schools as possible.
Capital investments will see $200,000 put towards the Technology Evergreen Fund to replace and enhance technology for work and learning throughout the district.
There will also be $214,000 allocated to the Next Generation Network, a provincial infrastructure project providing faster and more reliable Internet at all sites.
However, three rural schools are still at risk of closure — W.E. Graham, Winlaw and Jewett — as well as one school in Nelson, likely Trafalgar Middle School. The fate of those schools will be dealt with in the upcoming release of the SD8 Facilities Plan.
Budget by the numbers
Education assistant time has received a boost in Kindergarten to Grade 3 classrooms, curriculum implementation and other initiatives with the allocation of $292,000 to early learning.
Over $500,000 will go to the specific needs of “vulnerable” learners. A total of $565,855 will help fund meals, Read by 3, intermediate core literacy and third party contracts providing counselling, art therapy, mental health clinicians and after school programming.
The district will also continue to offer student symposia to engage learners in building awareness for decision makers in SD8 around students’ learning, priorities and advocacy.
In the area of human resources a total of 7.5 full-time equivalent teachers — or $750,000 — has been added to the teacher staffing component of the budget to attend to a projected increase in students.
SD8 is projecting an enrolment increase (February, 2016 data) of 66 full-time equivalent students next year.
The extra teachers will also help support transformation throughout the district as the B.C. revised curriculum is implemented.
“Over the next few months we will be adding staffing for targeted funds, such as Aboriginal Education and the Learning Improvement Fund, among others,” said Jones.
The implementation of the re-designed curriculum will also include teachers teaching on call (TTOC’s) and part time teachers in the 2016-2017 non-instructional.
“To have all teachers in the district, including TTOC’s and part time teachers, working on this important project will positively impact students when the curriculum is fully rolled out,” said Jones.
Getting here to the budget
The preliminary budget was developed by a 23-member budget stakeholder engagement committee that included voting members from Kootenay Lake Teachers’ Union, CUPE, the principal/vice principals’ association, District Parent Advisory Committee, the school district superintendent and its secretary-treasurer, directors and trustees.
According to the law, the board of education is required to submit a balanced budget to the Ministry of Education.
Work on the new budget began in October 2015 and, although the preliminary budget was approved April 19, the district will work with the current budget until the final amended budget is submitted to the ministry in February, 2017.
As in previous years, principals and vice principals had opportunities to engage in discussions regarding learning and budget with trustees, said SD8 superintendent Jeff Jones in a release regarding the budget.
“A student symposium provided further insight for the committee and the trustees,” he said.
A “talking tables” dinner event earlier this year where teachers, CUPE members and parents were engaged in facilitated discussion around broad budget topics with trustees, principals and vice principals and members of the senior leadership team was a new wrinkle in the budget process.
There were 76 participants that discussed learning and resource allocation.
“Processes to involve and engage more stakeholders in School District No. 8 improve each year and the addition of this event was greatly appreciated by the board as trustees gathered the information needed to pass a balanced budget,” said Jones.
For more information about the budget process, people can visit the SD8 website.