School district will trim three staffers

The school district will reduce staffing levels by three in 2011-12 as a result of declining enrolment.

Sheila McDonnell

Sheila McDonnell

The school district will reduce staffing levels by three in 2011-12 as a result of declining enrolment.

Last week, trustees approved adjusting staffing levels for next year’s budget with a reduction of teaching staff of three full-time equivalents (FTE).

“For the first year in a little while, we won’t have any reductions in the budget other than what we would normally see for declining enrolment, which typically would be six or seven teachers and this year is offset by full-day kindergarten needing an extra four teachers, so our actual decline in staff would only be three FTE,” said Len Ibbs, the district’s secretary-treasurer.

The Ministry of Education has allocated the holdback grants of $485,000 to the district, and Ibbs recommends that the board not spend the grant this year but use it to balance the 2011-12 budget.

“We did get really good news from the ministry when they gave us the holdback grants that were distributed in December,” he said. “Our suggestion to the board would be that extra money is coming in the current school year, but we hold it and not spend it this year and carry it forward to help us work on the 2011-12 budget.

“Given all the ups and downs of cost increases and decreases, we’re actually fairly close to a balanced budget at this time.”

Trustee Sheila McDonnell wanted to see the district spend some of that holdback funding within the next six months to invest in improvements for the rest of this school year.

“I think (staff) would know where those funds might best be used and that we should put some of it to this year and not save it for the proverbial rainy day when an investment now will make next year even better,” she said.

Although other trustees agreed the money could be well used this year, they did not support McDonnell’s idea.

“I think the intent is great, but I can’t support the motion as it is,” said trustee Janice Caton. “The money’s there, and it would be really great to spend it, but we have to plan for the future.”

Trustee Fran Goldberg was concerned that items were cut from the budget last year, and she was concerned about things being added without the rigour last year’s items were subject to before being cut.

District staff considered spending the holdback money but believed it was a better investment to put it into next year’s budget to give the district more long-term stability, explained superintendent Sherry Elwood.

writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com