Tuesday, May 30, 2023

SD52 Budget Bylaw approved at May 23rd session; public comment period offered critique of process

It was a quick and seemingly at times, an uncomfortable ten minute session for the members of the Board of Education on May 23rd, with those participating at the Booth Building gathering space and by remote means from near and afar moving the Budget Bylaw forward to adoption for 2023. 

The Board members put their final approval on the Budget plan that they delivered at their last session earlier this month. Their final adoption however coming not without a few minutes of controversy towards the process that was used for this year.

Former Trustee Tina Last was in attendance on the night and made inquiries as to how the Board had reached the point of adoption on the night,  observing that they had 'put the cart before the horse and how the procedures used this year had never happened before'.

"I would want somebody to check into the validity of that process... because I came here, as I'm sure as anyone could have to see what the Budget is. And the budget looks for anybody who didn't know that you did it last week just like a rubber stamp, I don't know what the budget is" -- Former SD52 Board Chair and trustee Tina Last.

Gerry Slyhkuis who has been consulting with the School District from the Fraser Valley since March,  provided some guidance to the issues raised by Ms. Last.

"What's been presented and we've had a couple of meetings now presenting various aspects of the Budget and various analysis of the Budget and then at this meeting you have the actual Ministry template with the full document for the three readings. 

That's actually quite normal, you would look at it in different views, different analysis. Because the Ministry template is fairly hard to understand.

And so in the previous meetings you've had the Budget presented, you've had some discussion around it, made some decisions around it and from that then Britney has prepared the Ministry template which is included in this. That's the actual Budget document in the bylaw so I hope that's helfpul'

Ms. Last added to her commentary, that the process that was used was a disappointing one for her, as there was no actual budget to review.

"This is just very different from twenty years of doing a budget and I can only speak for me but I'm pretty disappointed that I don't get to see a budget"

To follow up on some further commentary from Mr. Slykhuis, Ms. Last shared her thoughts as to how it had been done in the past.

"I'm a former trustee, I was the Chair for thirteen years and we've never done it like this. We've had it where you know you could come to the Budget meeting, where the budget's going to be passed.  And you get to see your trustees look at what was presented as options, and they would debate it ,they would discuss it and you didn't have to actually partake in the previous five public budget meetings because this is where we would pass the budget.  So this is just very different from the last twenty years that Prince Rupert has passed budgets"

The School Board's Budget helper from the Fraser Valley offered up some further notes on how the process of adoption of the budget works, observing on how it is accomplished in other jurisdictions.

Mr. Slykhuis then observed, how there had been opportunity for comment and input in the previous sessions used by the SD52 Board over the last few months.

"If you get it all in one meeting it's a lot to absorb and this gives everybody time to think about it and in fact a decisions' changed quite a bit over these two or three meetings in what the Board finally decided on for a budget. So I think it was a really good exercise because they did have that time to review it. Recognizing that may be different than what's been done in the past"

Ms. Last had one last thought on the process used for this year's budget planning.

"Different than what Prince Rupert would be expecting would be my view of how to phrase that"

None of the Board of Education Trustee members weighed in on the back and forth over the process during the course of the session.

Superintendent Andrew Samoil noted that the Budget document would be available for review by the public on May 24th. 

That documentation can be reviewed from the SD52 Budget page.

The session was then adjourned.

You can review the full ten minute session from the SD52 Video Archive below

The next steps for the Board as they look to implement their financial planning will include the reassignment of staff or potential cutting of support positions. As well as the potential for layoffs for teaching staff, all of which we should be in motion before this month comes to an end.

More notes related to Education on the North Coast can be reviewed here.


  1. This exchange, in a nutshell, is the personification of one of Prince Rupert’s major problems:

    “I was the Chair for 13 years and we’ve never done it like this”

    Just because something has been done a certain way for a certain time does not make it right, nor better.

    Prince Rupert is a better place when these outdated attitudes are relegated to the dustbin of history.

    What’s that quote something something doing the same thing over and over again something something results is insanity.

    1. That is classic Rupertude right there.

      The quote you are looking for is

      “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

      This quote comes to mind as well.

      The Most Dangerous Phrase In Business: We've Always Done It This Way

  2. Ms Last has a valid point. The board may not have to do everything like they did before, but there are some things that they have to do under the School Act.

    The board can unanimously agree to do three readings of a bylaw in one meeting, as they seem to have done here (if it is not unanimous they can only do two readings at one meeting). And a reading can consist of a description of the title and a summary of the contents, so long as each trustee is in possession of a written or printed copy of the bylaw, which also seems to have been the case. There was mention of the ministry's required template, the "full document", the "actual budget document", as the A/Secretary called it, being included in the agenda package.

    However, they also have to make copies of the written or printed budget "available to each member of the public in attendance". They do not seem to have done that. Ms Last asked why the budget wasn't presented and said that she was disappointed that she did not get to see the budget. The board does not appear to have handed out copies to members of the public, and as of today the agenda package for the 23 May meeting has not been made available to the public by posting it to the web site.

    They don't necessarily have to debate the budget again. But they do have to present the written document to everyone present, including members of the public. This is all covered in section 68 of the School Act. The board probably should review their procedures, as Ms Last suggested.

  3. So basically the school board approved a budget without showing the proposed final version to the public before approval. The signed bylaw with the attached budget is now available in the financial section of the web site.

    That's very different from how the City presented the budget (which is a five year plan) this year. They prepared a draft budget document with thorough explanatory notes for the public, and later included the proposed final bylaw and financial plan in the agenda packages that were available to the public before the meetings.