PORT HARDY—The SD85 Board of Education gave Treasurer John Martin the go-ahead to examine some tough options for the next budget at last week’s board meeting.
Citing the rising costs of pensions, ICBC and MSP, the impending loss of fund protection, the cost of trustee elections, and declining enrolment, Martin said that he was looking at options like reducing positions and closing the resource centre.
“I need some kind of direction from the board to move forward,” he said.
In response to questions, Martin clarified that he was considering two teaching positions and one CUPE position.
“I have some concern about the district resource centre,” said Trustee Jeff Field. “Where will they be housed? How will teachers access them?” he asked.
“We’ve had that discussion,” said Martin. “We don’t want to lose them so we’re trying to find out who’s using them.” He said that Eagle View could inherit the resources and the existing web-based L4U system would allow teacher access.
“We will do everything we can to preserve the service,” said Superintendent Scott Benwell. “We will endeavour to make it as good as can be.”
The motion to move forward was passed by the board.
VINTA representative Fred Robertson expressed his “ongoing concerns” about the cuts, adding that the prospect “wears on the soul.”
He placed the blame squarely at the feet of the provincial government, saying, “There’s a funding problem in this province — as everyone knows.”
In light of the ministerial acceptance of revised trustee electoral areas, Port Alice Trustee Carol Prescott brought forward some concerns over travel expenses under the new system.
The adjustment will see Port Alice in the same zone as Malcolm and Cormorant Islands, with two trustees assigned to the zone, and some residents had expressed concern to the trustee about the distance involved.
“We’ve had two letters voicing concerns,” said the trustee. “Considering trustees are supposed to represent communities, they’d like to see provisions (for a trustee) to go to a community without representation maybe once a month so the community can have an opportunity to voice their concerns.”
“Sounds like a great idea,” said chair Leightan Wishart.
Treasurer John Martin pointed out that the request fell within existing policies. He told trustees that they weren’t covered for regular meetings, but anything over and above — committee meetings, school visits and so on — could be claimed under the current policy.
“The board has made an exception for those that claim the ferry (to attend regular meetings),” Martin clarified, “but current policy allows you to claim.
Benwell vowed to speak to high schools in an effort to boost participation from local students at next year’s regional science fair after the lack of local entries left Gold River’s students to clean up the senior awards.
But the superintendent was impressed by the entries he did see at the fair. “It was great to see the high standard from our students,” he said.
The board congratulated Rena Sweeney for her organizational work on bringing the event together.