The School District 28 board of education discusses the 2019-20 budget during its May 15 regular board meeting. Lindsay Chung photo

Quesnel school board passes balanced budget for 2019-20 school year

Surplus will cover $661,000 in requests from partner groups

School District 28 will be able to grant all the funding requests it’s received from its partner groups for the 2019-20 school year.

During the board of education meeting Wednesday, May 15 in Quesnel, trustees passed and adopted the 2019-20 operating budget, which included requests for supports such as increased curriculum support teachers and more vice-principal time at the larger schools.

The budget bylaw for the 2019-20 school year is set at $40,247,991, and during the board meeting, trustees were excited to be putting money back into the district.

In presenting the budget for the 2019-20 school year, secretary-treasurer Bettina Ketcham presented a list of six budget requests that could be covered by the district’s current and accumulated surplus.

The board anticipates an operating surplus of $317,181 in 2019-20 before considering any of these requests, Ketcham explained to trustees. This surplus amount is after the consideration of various items of savings, including the reversal of the one-time surplus expenditure plan implemented for the 2018-19 school year, teacher pension and CUPE benefit savings, and other supplies adjustment reductions which offset costs relating to provincially-negotiated wage increases for both union groups and additional mandatory preparation time, as per the teachers’ collective agreement.

The board solicited feedback and ideas from its partner groups — the Quesnel District Teachers Association, CUPE 4990, and the Quesnel Principal and Vice-Principal Association — on how best to reinvest these dollars for the upcoming year. The board also hosted a public meeting to understand the community’s priorities.

The board received six requests for the 2019-20 year. This includes $230,965 to maintain current staffing levels of education assistants; $17,096 for a vision and psychologist consultant; $85,435 for additional 1.4 full-time equivalent (FTE) curriculum support teachers; $82,571 for the addition of temporary staffing and time at the transportation and maintenance departments; $188,180 for additional vice-principal time at some of the district’s larger sites to meet increasing need for student supports; and $56,699 for wage adjustments for principals, vice-principals, managers and district administrator staff so that wages reflect the staff member’s years of experience.

That surplus of $317,181 would cover part of the funding needed for these requests, and the remainder would be covered by the district’s accumulated operating surplus funds, explained Ketcham.

“It would be my recommendation to the board that we could accept all of these requests and proposals and still leave the district with a very healthy, accumulated operating surplus, such that if the board needed to react to changes that came forward next year unexpectedly, that we would still be agile to change,” she said.

Trustees expressed happiness at being able to reinvest with this budget, as opposed to making cuts.

“We went through many years where we were cutting and cutting and cutting, and this year, we do have some surplus,” said Trustee Julie-Anne Runge. “We’ve mulled over these different options over the past several months, and we’ve had lots of consultation with our stakeholders, with all of our different groups. I would love to see us reinvest this money. There’s no reason for us to build our surplus anymore for our district, so I love the idea of being able to supply all these requests.”

Trustee David Chapman says they heard a lot of positive feedback during their budget tour on May 14.

“In my 14 years on this board, we’ve done some pretty brutal cuts over the years, and like Trustee [Cyril] Tobin says, it’s kind of nice to put money back when you can,” he said. “It would be nice to put a lot more in, but that’s where we’re at, and I also fully support the three readings tonight.

Board Chair Gloria Jackson passed on the gratitude she heard during the budget tour.

“Once of the comments we heard yesterday on the budget tour was that yes we did have lots of tough times, and it is nice to finally be re-investing into the district,” she said. “One of the comments I took away from one of the staff members too was ‘you guys did a good job of getting us through the tough times even though it was tough,’ so that was nice they acknowledged that and she really acknowledged we really tried hard to keep it away from the classrooms.”

In other aspects of the budget, the district applied and was successful in receiving an additional $86,000 in Rural Education Enhancement Funding for a 1.0 FTE teacher, which funds an additional teacher at Parkland Elementary.

The provincial government increased the funding targeted to Aboriginal Education, and $110,000 of ongoing funding will go toward programming in our district for additional teacher mentors and elementary language instruction in the Carrier language.

The board completed all three readings and passed the 2019-20 budget bylaw at the meeting.

READ MORE: School board to debate budget this week

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