After over five months of discussion to the the topic, the Board of Education at SD52 have settled on their Budget plan for 2023-24. The School trustees setting the path forward last week at their May 16th Board meeting.
Towards their Budget options, the Board received some further guidance from the Acting Secretary-Treasurer Brittney Verissimo who as had been requested at a previous meeting, delivered seven different scenarios for the the Board to consider.
Ms. Verissimo observing on the night that indications are that the School District should assume that $250,000 from the Ministry is coming, though there has been no official confirmation from Victoria as of yet.
"From what we are hearing, it is highly probable that we will be receiving the 250, 000 from the Ministry and I'll now pass this on to our chair Kate Toye to open this up for discussion by the trustees And for the trustees to make their decision tonight on a scenario to provide direction to our Superintendent Andrew Samoil and his team"
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From the seven scenarios the two that quickly became the focus for the trustees were Scenario 2 and Scenario 3.
Trustees Horne and Beil would be the strongest advocates for Scenario 3, both noting the prospect of less impact on staffing that it would deliver, as well as the option to revisit the budget at any time should the provincial funding not come as anticipated.
Scenario three would mean no contingency fund in place for the Board; but would make for a reduced amount of potential layoffs.
Among some of the points towards the discussion on the scenario.
"We can make amendments to our budget at any given moment. We can call a meeting and make an amendment to the budget . We can make it every month if we need to. So what I'm concerned about is when you put too much money in the contingency and we take away from staffing we will put ourselves in a bad, bad position.
I'm always a person who likes to have money for a rainy day, but I also have to be mindful that if what Brittany is saying and I believe that's true other school districts are saying that we're going to get that money. If we don't see that money in the next two months we can always go back to the table and amend our budget.
I'm thinking long term here and kids aren't going to get an education if we don't have the proper staffing in place and that means if we're in the same position that some other districts are in that we have EA's teaching our children that's not going to benefit us" -- Trustee Janet Beil
For Board Chair Kate Toye the concern was to remind the Board members of the challenges in recruitment of teachers and to ensure that the District could retain educators.
"I would just encourage the Board to look at the second part right, look below that line and what it means for cuts depending on what scenario we are looking at. I would love that we had a surplus and a giant contingency and yes contingency allows us to go back.
However, September might be too late to go back and we might have already lost people from our District who have left and Prince Rupert can be a different transition for people who aren't from here. And if we already have our people here, we already have our people here.
All of those large number in that second chart looks like cuts right and those cuts comes away from our kids and to think about that as your looking at scenarios"
That was also a theme echoed by Trustee Horne
"The problem with saying that it is then Two is that it includes more cuts and that's a problem I would have with it, it goes back to the staff issue. So it needs to be three and not two in my mind. Because I see us losing staff that we won't be able to replace should we go with option 2 over option 3" -- Trustee James Horne
Trustee Beil also spoke to the staffing issues facing the District.
"I'm supporting scenario 3, I'm supporting this because I can see that if we lose any more staff out of this District we're going to have really, really, really difficult staffing positions in Prince Rupert, with low housing. We have a real crisis on our hands trying to get people here for other work, how are we going to get teachers here or even support staff. So I mean I'm willing to roll the dice and go with scenario three so we don't cut to the core" -- Trustee Janet Beil
Trustee Maier called on Andrew Samoil, the Superintend of the School District for some guidance on the seven options.
While he did not endorse any of the scenarios, noting that it was a political decision for the Board, but did observe how the Board had enough options to make a decision to move forward.
"The difficult job of a Superintendent, a Superintendent has two roles one to be not political that's your area, but the other is distribute scarce resources. And that's exactly the situation we're in, it's like asking me to make that decision or to give you some input.
There's the value in all of the scenarios, if we get into too many scenarios we're going to get into analysis paralysis and it makes it a lot more difficult to make a decision. I think that you have enough scenarios there to make a sound decision and to quote Trustee Beil you can always revisit the budget items later." -- SD52 Superintendent Andrew Samoil
With the call for a vote from Trustee Sanchez the Board members approved Scenario 3, with two trustees Maier and Pucci in opposition.
Trustee Pucci followed up with a question related to the prospect of any staff cut or layoffs as a result of the adoption of Scenario 3.
Providing all moves forward with the bylaw tonight, the Board could announce teacher cuts by May 30th.
The trustees frequently referenced some of their previous meetings particularly one from May 8th, that session is available for review here.
You can review the full forty minute plus discussion on the Budget from the May 16th meeting from the SD52 You Tube video starting at the one hour mark.
You can review the entire Budget process from SD52 here.
More notes related to SD52 themes is available from our archive page.