The Vernon School District is faced with the good news of having some additional cash to spend.
The extra funding is a result of the Ministry of Education’s redirection of administrative savings back to school districts.
“While originally announced as a one-time savings, the ministry subsequently advised that this level of funding would be a permanent commitment,” said district secretary-treasurer Sterling Olson. “Our share of this funding is estimated at $382,586.”
In June, the school board was presented with a budget adjustment plan to use this funding which will be incorporated into the amended annual budget in January. The plan uses $90,570 for ongoing instructional programs and services enhancements, $203,430 for one-time improvements in 2016/17, and $88,586 to be determined once enrolments are known.
“At this point enrolment looks like it is on track, which means that our revenue should be pretty close to the budget,” said Olson.
In August, the ministry announced new transportation funding that could be used in a variety of ways. As well, the government announced they are cancelling MSP premiums.
“The district had estimated and budgeted for this increase in the amount of $35,000 so this amount now becomes available,” said Olson, adding that the district currently has $423,586 of unallocated revenues for the 2016/17 school year.
Trustees have approved a motion that the funds be allocated once enrolment is known.
Superintendent Joe Rogers says the emphasis is always on the classroom.
“We need to see what enrolment looks like and see what the pressures are in which schools and in the system, so that $400,000 could go to education time, extra EA time, extra support time or school budget needs,” he said.
“There are a number of things that we didn’t fund last spring that were on the list, but what’s actually needed at the school system now?”
Rogers pointed to Alexis Park school, which has had extra pressure due to the addition of 10 extra students who live on Westside Road but didn’t want to go to school in Kelowna.
Trustee Lisa de Boer suggested compiling a list of needs at schools and voting on those recommendations at the next meeting, but Rogers had concerns about waiting until the end of October before implementing the recommendations.
“If I hear that schools need something now and have to wait until the October board meeting and they have to hire some people, it could be mid-November before we can put those teachers or EAs in place. “Let’s say we have some pressures around school counselling, if our school counsellors need to add a block or two, I don’t think it’s in the best interest of those kids to wait to get services — it’s delaying support for kids.
“There is money for busing and other things that we didn’t expect, and my preference is to spend it as soon as possible and to get teachers and EAs in front of kids.”