Greater Victoria School District trustees haven’t taken the same stand as their counterparts in Cowichan, but they have made new moves toward restoring education funding by identifying exactly where their balanced budget falls short – and by how much.
Unlike in Cowichan, where trustees face the threat of termination since having submitted a deficit budget to the Ministry of Education, Greater Victoria trustees passed a balanced budget submitted to the ministry in April.
But the SD 61’s $171-million operating budget is likely not the only budget they’ll submit this year.
On Monday night (June 11) members of the board’s operations, policy and planning committee unanimously passed a second budget that identifies the need for an additional $48,463,915 to meet the educational needs of students.
The needs budget provides a detailed breakdown of the actual costs associated with district’s needs – from staffing to supplies – as identified by school planning councils and community members throughout the school year.
“It’s what the community thinks is necessary,” said board of education chairperson Peg Orcherton. “This is from the community … and we’re hopeful to start using it as a basis in our (2012-13) budget deliberations, as the realities of what we can propose.”
The budget advisory committee will present the document to the board of education for approval at the June 18 meeting before it can be sent to Education Minister George Abbott.
In an accompanying draft letter to Abbott, Orcherton outlines four key factors that contributed to the need: insufficient funding for special needs students; consumer prices and cost of living increases, coupled with expanded mandates of the education system; partially-funded provincial labour settlements; and loss of funding due to enrolment declines.
In the past, the board has submitted a “restorative budget” document, based on 2001 operational costs and funding. The restorative budget focused strictly on the cuts made in the previous decade and didn’t take into account declining enrolment and school closures.
The question of whether or not to submit the needs based budget in lieu of a balanced budget for 2012-13, is one trustees will encounter again in September when the planning process begins.
“That would be quite a lengthy discussion and debate, I would expect, but it does show from the community’s perspective, what the needs are,” Orcherton said, adding that the 2012-13 budget will be especially difficult for a number of factors.
Among those considerations are the board’s spending of a one-time $349,541 surplus this spring and the ministry’s decision to freeze funding for three years without taking into account increases in operational costs.