Province gives $171K to Saanich school board to balance budget

The Saanich School District balanced its budget after receiving a last-minute release of funds from the province.

The Saanich School District balanced its budget after receiving a last-minute release of funds from the province.

Since April, district trustees have said they planned to contravene the School Act and put forward a deficit budget for the 2011-12 school year.

When the Ministry of Education released $171,289 in holdback funds to the district on June 24 – an amount based on enrolment numbers and usually held until the fall – the board tweaked its budget to eliminate the remaining $26,000 shortfall. On submission deadline day Thursday trustees unanimously passed the balanced budget.

The board initially requested enough money to balance the coming year’s budget, as well as $3.5 million to reinstate services cut in previous years.

The ministry did not release any funding to address concerns over class sizes or student support eliminated in the past. But school trustees around the province now have an opportunity to provide input on the issue, through their inclusion in a technical working group set to review the ministry’s funding formula this fall.

School district board vice-chair MaryLynne Rimer said she has faith their message was heard.

“The announcement around the technical working group has brought this out from being merely a process that goes on inside the ministry to (one) including trustees,” she said. “Maybe there’ll be other partner groups that will be invited to make submissions for that review.”

Board trustees risked being fired had they submitted a final deficit budget – a strategy the group didn’t see as a prime concern, Rimer said.

“The debate had more to do with the oath that we all swore with respect to the School Act and the other very important issue of being trustees of the public system.”

nnorth@saanichnews.com