Good news in school district’s funding

  • Apr. 20, 2012 5:00 p.m.

There was something of a surprise, and a good surprise, when the school board presented its draft budget at the first of two public meetings on Wednesday (April 11). Usually, this school district has been faced with very tight money, but this year, thanks to a change in the way provincial funding is calculated, there’s more money, about $438,000 more, in a budget of $10.6 million. “Our district has, in a sense, won the lottery,” is the way Superintendent Angus Wilson put it at the meeting at GM Dawson in Masset, “we are in a better position than we might have been.” The extra money comes because the province is now giving more for unique geographic factors, which take the isolation of Haida Gwaii into consideration. Mr. Wilson also said it’s likely the new formula will be around for a while, because it doesn’t cost the province much, and that could mean higher funding for years to come. In the 2012/2013 school year, School District 50 will have total funding of $10,626,484, up from $9.7-million last year, despite the fact that the number of students is predicted to continue to decline to about 600, down from the 634 full-time equivalent students now in school. Mr. Wilson also pointed out that enrolment in district schools is going to continue to drop, as it has over the last decade. In 2001, for example, there were close to 1,000 students in islands’ schools. The board plans to spend $7.5-million on instruction, up from $7.4-million last year, $654,678 on administration ($658,678 last year), $1.7 million on maintenance (same as last year) and $478,909 for transportation ($424,000 last year). It plans to keep the student/teacher ratio to about 13:1, documents included with the presentation said.The board anticipates saving $19,000 on telephone costs, $5,000 on vehicles and $2,000 on fire inspections and receiving income of $240,000 through selling board-owned buildings. The district plans to use the new-found money for a variety of projects. It plans to spend an extra $110,000 on supporting early learning, it will hire a part-time maintenance supervisor for about $35,000, relieving Mr. Wilson of that duty, and put $30,000 into Haida Kindergarten immersion. It also plans to spend an additional $40,000 to support a school psychologist/counselling position. It is considering spending more on outdoor education, a district-wide support teacher or counselor, Haida curriculum development, the district resource centre and sports and cultural committees. “You can have anything you want,” Mr. Wilson told those attending, “you just can’t have everything you want.”As well, the district is facing increased costs ($60,000) to pay teachers, as more teachers move up the pay ladder because of experience, an additional $20,000 for utilities, and an extra $10,000 for supplies.The board is continuing to look at the possibility of sharing some services with another school board, such as Richmond, which is the closest to here in travelling time, to help with its payroll, education support and other functions.One thing that won’t be happening soon is consolidation of the two schools in Masset, both of which were built for far more students than they now have. Last year at the budget meeting, the idea of consolidating the two was made public, but Mr. Wilson said that after some consultation, it became clear the idea was not popular. “Certainly, the feedback from the public has not been overly enthusiastic,” he said. GM Dawson was designed for 350 students and is expected to soon have just 106, while Tahayghen was designed for 410 and will have 102. Taken together, the two schools have 527 fewer students than they were designed for.The board has another budget presentation slated for Wed. April p18 in Skidegate. It must submit the budget to the province by the end of June.

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