School District 69 (Qualicum) has passed its budget for the upcoming year, despite having asked the Ministry of Education for $956,313 in additional funding.
At a special budget meeting on Tuesday, May 16, trustees raised the question of whether to pass the budget despite identifying a need for 9.1 additional teachers and not having the funding to pay for most of them. The additional need is based on the re-instatement of union language after a Supreme Court decision last year.
Trustee Julie Austin in particular questioned the prudence of passing the budget, and asked whether it would be best to wait until the government gets back to them on the request for more funding (which would hopefully happen in early June, not long before the budget deadline).
However, Austin was not present for the vote on the budget at the Tuesday, May 23 board meeting, where the remaining four trustees passed the annual budget bylaw in the amount of $52,791,058 for the 2017/18 fiscal year.
Trustee Jacob Gair attempted to introduce a motion calling for postponing the budget motion until June, which he said is what Austin wanted. But board chair Even Flynn said the motion was out of order.
Secretary-treasurer Ron Amos told the board the budget is based on funds that the district already has, and not funds it has requested.
Of the 9.1 extra teaching positions administration has identified a need for, the budget pays for 2.5 of those by using $280,958 from surplus.
Nonetheless, at the board’s May 16 meeting, administration said cuts would have to be made if the extra government funding did not come through.
If that’s the case, Assistant Superintendant Gillian Wilson said, administration would come back to the board with options for where cuts could be made.
Amos said in an interview that this year’s budget is not all that different than any other year, with funding allotments changing as priorities change. If the district’s request for extra funding is denied, funding allotments will have to be re-prioritized, with a view to making good on union agreement language.
“We are fairly optimistic that the funding will come through,” said Amos.