SD5 says balanced budget a balancing act
Along with their balanced budget for the upcoming 2015/2016 school year School District No. 5 (SD5), Southeast Kootenay will once again be submitting an annual needs budget, accompanied by a joint letter from SD5 and education partners to government advocating for “adequate funding,”
According to Board Chair Frank Lento, the SD5 “needs budget” is the rationale and pro-active response to revenue provided by government that is, year after year, chronically less than what is needed to pay for the delivery of programs and services mandated by that same government.
“The simple fact is the current funding formula doesn’t work,” says Lento. “Someone in Victoria determines our funding envelope based on a formula that changes from year to year and has little in common with the reality of running a district. Outside that envelope we have inflationary costs like hydro and MSP increases, as well as surprise claw-backs like the recent $54 million in “administrative savings” that government demanded from districts across B.C., which in our district equals around $899,678 over two years.”
In addition to basic cuts required to balance the budget, Lento says the district struggles with the challenge of cutting in one funding area in order to provide the necessary funding to those areas identified as “high needs.”
This year SD5 made cuts to 33 distinct areas of their operations in order to achieve a balanced budget while continuing to focus on “high need” areas of education, some of which are outlined in B.C.’s Education Plan.
“This government initiative, with a focus on “personalized learning”, requires districts to invest in and maintain current –and expensive—technologies and infrastructure in order to provide the meaningful and relevant experiences our learners require to attain success.”
It would seem that on this point at least, the SD5 Board and Education Minister Peter Fassbender agree. In his BC’s Education Plan Minister’s Message, Fassbender states, “We owe it to our students to keep pace.”
“What we don’t agree on,” said Lento, “is the level of investment government needs to commit to education if they are to move from rhetoric to reality.”