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Victoria school board begins budget debate

Apr 17 2012

The Greater Victoria school board began debating its budget Monday by deciding how to spend a projected $350,000 surplus this year.

The board approved a motion to spend the money to hire educational assistants, secretarial support for psychologists and speech pathologists, and an additional psychologist to clear a backlog of students awaiting assessments.

Trustee Diane McNally, however, blocked a motion that would have allowed a final vote on the $171-million budget Monday. That could take place in private in the next few days.

Trustees McNally, Deborah Nohr, and Catherine Alpha, all current or former teachers, confirmed previously that they plan to vote against the budget on that grounds that it fails to meet the educational needs of students.

Nohr said in an interview last week that years of underfunding by the B.C. government has led to severe district shortages of educational assistants, counsellors, teacher-librarians and specialist teachers. "I have observed the deterioration in our school system in every way," she said. "This is completely unacceptable for every student in our school system."

The three trustees, along with Edith LoringKuhanga, ran in last fall's election promising to submit only a "fully funded needs budget" to government. If all four adhere to that position, the nine member board could divide down the middle, leaving chairwoman Peg Orcherton to break a tie.

Orcherton and a number of other trustees believe their oath of office requires them to uphold the School Act and bring in a balanced budget.

District staff proposed a balanced budget based on projected enrolment of 18,573 students in kindergarten to Grade 12 - a drop of 190 students from this year.

lkines@timescolonist.com

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