Recent History – 2004-2006
By Gary Rusak, 20 June 2005
School District 59 approved its projected budget last Tuesday. But because the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation is still without a contract, many questions remain.
“We’re curious,” said district administrator Rob Dennis on Friday. “If there is a settlement with the teachers that involves additional wages, we are going to have to find that in our block of money.”
Dennis said that the district is hopeful that the Liberal government and the BCTF will be able to build the framework for a settlement before the summer break.
On the positive side for the board, last Thursday, Shirley Bond was named minister of education, replacing Tom Christensen. The move has been touted for bringing new blood to the ministry. However, the BCTF is still suing Premier Gordon Campbell for allegedly slandering the group during last month’s election campaign.
The tempestuous relationship between the provincial government and the teacher union has left the school district’s administration in the middle, hoping for the best.
“We are in wait and see mode because we don’t know how it is going to go,” said Dennis. “In the last three years they have had to figure it out, they still haven’t come to an agreement about how they are going to negotiate. We would love it, from a district perspective, if they could come up with some sort of agreement before the summer. I know the teachers don’t want to go into a work-to-rule.”
Last Tuesday, the school district board approved a total annual budget bylaw of $42,785,192.
“We don’t know what the enrollment is going to be, but we have to present a budget to Victoria so they know roughly how much,” Dennis said. “We do our best guess based on our new registrations. We know it is going to change but you have to start somewhere.”
The school district bases its budget on receiving a transfer payment from the province per number of full time equivalent (FTE) students. This year, the province will transfer $5,753 per FTE. In 2004, the amount was $5,520. However, the increase does not equate to an increase in education funding from the province.
“They are still freezing the funding,” said Dennis, adding that 2005-06 is the third and final year of the provincial funding freeze.
“But, because there are less students going to school in the province, what they are saying is ‘we are going to give you the same block of money, but it’s more per student because there are less students overall.”