The Tribune Bay Society will receive nearly $40,000 more from School District 71 this year after the Board of Education approved a special request.
The non-profit society operates the Tribune Bay Outdoor Education Centre on Hornby Island — at which Comox Valley students camp each year. It requested SD71’s yearly contribution to its operation costs increase from $20,400 to $58,667.
School District 69 (Qualicum) also contributes each year, and its Board of Education agreed to increase its funding from $10,200 to $29,333 this year.
Both increases are for one year only.
According to a briefing note to the board, the society is under funding pressure due to withdrawn funding — which finance committee chair Rick Grinham noted was federal — and a decrease in student use because of the cancellation of extracurricular trips during teacher job action last year.
Trustee Sheila McDonnell, the SD71 appointee to the Tribune Bay Society, noted the school district has considerable influence on the centre and receives booking priority.
She noted the society will look at ways to increase educational opportunities at the centre over this year, and asked the board to consider how it would like to fund the society in the future.
“If we continue to underfund the centre, and yet expect priority use of it, we probably need to consider whether we should just let go of it,” she said, adding the centre would likely have more international and private bookings if not for the district’s priority use.
Trustee Janice Caton noted the centre is important, and some students go camping there for the first time in their lives. She added the experience teaches them team-building skills, and gives them confidence among other things.
Grinham said he embraced their comments and was in favour of the one-time increase, but pointed out the board needs to be careful where money is spent.
“I want to remind you that we’re talking about educational dollars here,” he said, adding the board will have to reassess the situation next year. “It is educational dollars and it is for all the kids in our school district, and is it wise money spent? And there certainly can be arguments on both sides of the fence.”
SD71 secretary treasurer Russell Horswill noted the society is working on alternate funding sources and camping time slots are filling up this year.
“The bookings are coming back this year, so last year there was very little usage of the centre, but we’re already seeing advance bookings for the spring and fall sessions,” said Horswill. “It is a non-profit society so it does have a core cost that has to be funded, and as long as there’s activity, they can adjust their costs to match the activity but this is to help them deal with that core cost that didn’t have the funding for one year.”