Courtesy of the Board of Education for School District #28 (Quesnel):
The Board of Education of School District 28 (Quesnel) is in the process of preparing its preliminary budget for the 2016/17 school year. While the Board intends to announce a balanced budget for the upcoming year, they do so with a great deal of frustration and displeasure. On March 30, 2016, the Board passed a bylaw to close three schools – École Baker Elementary, Parkland Elementary and Kersley Elementary – effective June 30, 2016. The savings that resulted from these closures is estimated to be $777,000 which would have been sufficient to cover the funding shortfall of $749,000 which has substantially resulted from declining enrolment and decreases in funding protection. Unfortunately, because of way the provincial government has downloaded certain costs to the District, instead of being able to add services back to the system after closing schools, the Board is being forced to make further cuts of $324,000. These cuts may directly impact students.
The Quesnel Board of Education, like other districts in the province, is demanding that the government reverse decisions which have contributed to a significant funding shortfall for the upcoming and future years. First, the Board demands the return of the District Administrative Savings, the result of which is that $370,000 has been permanently taken out of operating budgets – $202,000 in the 2015/16 year and a further $168,000 for the 2016/17 year. Second, repay the costs for the new provincial network for internet access. Our District’s cost for this are $260,000 in the 2015/16 school year and will cost a further $135,000 in 2016/17 school year – costs which will be ongoing. Finally, the Board will be demanding that exempt staff wage increases (frozen since 2009 but recently approved by the government) be fully funded. These wage increases cost the Quesnel School District $55,000 for the 2015/16 year and it is anticipated that there will be additional exempt staff increases in future years that should be fully funded as well
As a Board, we feel that it is disingenuous for the government to announce increases to per student funding on one hand, while offloading unexpected costs to Districts on the other. We wonder what will happen when we have no excess capacity to reduce, or educational programs to cut. Unexpected funding decisions ultimately affect student programming, especially in districts that do not have any capacity to generate additional funding.
In a year when the budget could be balanced with an overall increase to current service levels, the Quesnel School District is down over $1 million in funding resulting from the above-noted cost pressures in just the 2015/16 and 2016/17 years, necessitating cuts being made for the upcoming school year. We are calling on the government to return those funds to School District #28 students, and invite members of the public to voice their concern and outrage directly to the Ministry of Education and/or provincial government.