Gold Trail trustees call for meeting over budget cuts

The BCSTA membership endorsed a motion from the Gold Trail trustees to meet with the Education Minister to discuss new budget cuts.

School trustees throughout BC are still reeling from last week’s provincial budget announcement that Boards of Education will be required to reduce spending on administration and related services by a total of $29M next school year and a further $25M in 2016/17.

But thanks to Gold Trail’s Board of Education, the BC School Trustees Association (BCSTA) will be making its feelings loud and clear to Education Minister Peter Fassbender.

The trustees held a special meeting on Feb. 20 by conference call and passed a motion to give BCSTA Board of Directors direction “to discuss the memorandum of understanding with the Minister of Education and review possible areas of concern regarding recent provincial government budget processes, communication, content, and impacts.”

Trustee Nancy Rempel, Gold Trail’s representative on the council, presented the late motion to the provincial council of the BCSTA last weekend, and it was accepted.

There was one other motion put forward at the meeting of the provincial Council requesting that all boards of education meet with their own local MLA’s to discuss the budget cut.

“I support  doing that as a board when more details of the implications of the budget are explained by the ministries of Finance and Education,” said trustee Carmen Ranta, chair of the Gold Trail board of education.

Rempel stated as well that the provincial government needed to be reminded of the Memorandum of Understanding that it signed with the BCSTA last year. Particularly the clause regarding Consultation and Notification and about how “the parties are committed to cooperated in the spirit of partnership particularly in the development of policies, programs, projects and funding options.”

“If we’d heard about this (funding cut) before hand, we could have shown that we’re not top heavy,” said trustee Val Adrian.

Superintendent Teresa Downs said the Ministry of Education has not released its budget yet, so it is unknown what the figures will be for the individual districts, And, she said, no one is exactly sure what is meant by “administration.”

“It’s difficult for us because we believe we’ve already cut as much as we can,” said Downs. The District has cut back in many ways including eliminating the Director of Instruction position, sharing the Secretary-Treasurer and Director of Facilities positions with the Okanagan Similkameen (SD 53) School District, and closing local schools.

The BCSTA was quick to issue a public statement after the budget highlights were released last week. “It is clear the new provincial education budget will mean further cuts in school districts across the province,” said BCSTA president Teresa Rezansoff. “The money allocated in the 2015/16 provincial budget for public education simply will not cover our increasing costs, and now we are seeing millions of dollars taken away from school districts for other uses.

“This leaves very little, if anything, for Boards to use toward meeting continuing, unfunded cost pressures.”

BCSTA, working on behalf of Boards of Education throughout the province, will be seeking further clarification from the Ministry of Education in the coming weeks. Individual school districts will receive their 2015/16 budget allocations in early March so there is much work to be done.