PORT HARDY—The School District 85 Board of Trustees got their first look at an amended 2013- 14 budget, which reflects adjustments made to provide a provincially mandated raise for support workers in the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).
“This reflects known increases in costs, including benefit increases, WorkSafe premiums, the CUPE pay increase and a number of other items,” treasurer John Martin told the board during its regular monthly meeting Jan. 13. “Unfortunately, to balance the budget we’re using approximately half of our fund balance.”
The District is responsible for a budget of nearly $21.5 million. Pay increases for CUPE workers had to come from the existing budget, without cutting core services.
Martin said pressure on the District’s fund balance will be relieved by other cost-cutting measures in the short and long term, including attrition.
“We’ve taken steps to do some cost-control,” said Martin. “As positions become available through attrition, we’ve been able to find some monies to reduce costs; that includes non-replacement or partial replacement of jobs.”
The amended budget must be approved by the end of February.
Wishart returned to chair
Martin called the meeting to order and opened with election of the board chair. Port Hardy trustee Leightan Wishart was returned to the chair by acclimation and took the gavel for the remainder of the meeting.
Jeff Field, also of Port Hardy, was returned as vice-chair by acclimation. Other positions filled included the District’s representative to the B.C. School Trustees Association council (Alert Bay’s Eric Hunter) and alternate (Port McNeill’s Werner Manke); and its representative to B.C. Public Schools Education Association (Jeff Field) and alternate (Hunter).
Several committeeships were distributed and others will be filled in the coming weeks.
The board approved the distribution of a survey to secondary school students by North Island Community Services Society.
The anonymous survey is designed to determine how the society might better serve youths with its programs, which include management of the weekly drop-in Teen Centre in Port McNeill, and to assist the society in funding requests.
“Having reviewed it, Mr. Chair, I think it’s appropriate, I think it serves a community purpose and is being requested by a reputable organization,” Superintendent Scott Benwell told the board.
The survey covers a range of topics including housing, health care and food security, and will contain an optional section students may fill out if they wish to join a focus group or take advantage of the society’s current programs.