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School trustees sending another letter to Victoria to express 'displeasure'

Another letter from the local school board is on its way to Victoria to complain about the Education Ministry’s cash-handling skills.

The board of the Okanagan Skaha School District voted Monday to send a letter to express its “displeasure” about the possibility of the ministry holding back $15 million it feels should go directly to districts around B.C.

Finance director Maureen Maywood said the ministry annually holds back portions of its per-student funding to deal with fluctuations in enrolment, but the cash is generally released to districts by the end of the year. This year, however, she’s been told by ministry staff  that $15 million in holdback money might instead be used to offset “other possible cost pressures (the ministry) may be under”

Maywood noted that isn’t yet certain as “there were other things that they were looking at doing with that $15 million. It may come back to the districts in another form as part of their (annual facilities grant) funding.”

Regardless, board chair Ginny Manning said trustees still feel the need to weigh in on the matter now.

“It’s not bonus money,” she said. “It’s money that should be going to districts for their classrooms.”

Secretary-treasurer Ron Shongrunden said the holdback funding totalled about $188,000 in his district last year.

The school board also wrote to Education Minister Don McRae in late December to protest his request that districts across B.C. come up with savings plans by mid-January to offset expected wage increases for support staff. For the Okanagan Skaha School District, that meant finding about $300,000 over the next two years.

Trustees were told Monday that 44 of 60 districts in B.C. had sent similar letters to the education minister, who reportedly apologized earlier this month to the head of the B.C. School Trustees Association.

Manning said McRae is now “certainly well-aware of the consternation of districts” and agreed to further discussion with the BCSTA on funding for support staff wage increases. She noted that the district never did draft a savings plan, but was unable to say if the minister had backed down from his request.

 

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