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SD8 grapples with under-funding expected in coming budget

By Timothy Schafer, The Nelson Daily

Prepare for some belt tightening in Kootenay Lake School District No. 8 for next year.

The superintendent of schools, Jeff Jones, said the current provincial grant the school district is looking at — on a preliminary basis — isn’t as “hopeful” for next year as it could be.

He pointed to an increase in student enrollment — the second straight for SD8 — as not being reflected in the $50-million budget the school district currently deals with.

The message from the Ministry of Education is that this is a status quo budget allocation for the coming school year, said Jones.

“According to the ministry the grant reflects an increase in order to attend to the implementation of full-day kindergarten,” he said.

“However, in our review of the grant there has been only a nominal, if any, increase in the preliminary grant we received last year, even though we were projecting an increase in student enrolment.”

That increase in 2010 was due to the partial implementation of full-day kindergarten, with a small student increase in regular enrolment.

“In times with rising costs, and we have uncertainties with any contract negotiations and so forth, there will be some challenges,” he predicted, although he could not say what might be curtailed.

The school district no longer has the right to directly determine taxation levels for education to attend to the rising costs, said Jones. That directive comes instead from the Province.

In the next few weeks there will be various groups presenting to the board of education on what the school district’s spending priorities could be, with the public being allowed their say this week.

People can come out this Tuesday, 9 a.m. to noon, to give their input on the budget and the school district’s priorities at the school board office, with a maximum of 15 minutes presentation time.

An invitation was sent out in the previous weeks for people who wished to present to the board their concerns on budgeting priorities.

It is the priorities that the board has been working on to drive the budget and not the other way around, said Jones, but they need to be identified before budget deliberations begin in earnest.

Third reading of the preliminary budget has to be done by June 31, with it then going to the Provincial government for approval before coming back for adoption by the board.