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Cowichan school district, under appointed trustee, gets $300,000 top-up

Jul 17 2012

Cowichan Valley School District has a balanced budget but no school board. The budget comes from official trustee Mike McKay, who was appointed to replace a nine-member board fired by B.C. Education Minister George Abbott. The board failed to submit a balanced budget by July 1, instead voting 5-4 in favour of a budget $3.7 million in the red.

The budget they proposed sought to bring back programs that had been eliminated in recent years such as intensive-behaviour teachers and teacher-librarian time. The majority of board members argued that the deficit was necessary to provide students with a quality education.

McKay, Surrey School District superintendent, is a former principal of Cowichan Secondary and superintendent of the Saanich School District. He presented the new balanced budget at a public meeting Monday night. 

“We can work within a balanced budget,” he said, adding that government funding is based on enrolment numbers, so the final budget won’t be available until Sept. 30 when enrolment is finalized. McKay’s document went through its first and second readings on July 10 and was set for final revisions Monday night.

“In the absence of a balance budget, the province is providing no funds to the school district,” he said, emphasizing the need to approve a balanced budget.

Cowichan district is now working with $300,000 more than what the former board had been given.

Secretary treasurer Bob Harper said the difference isn’t significant and is the result of revenue projections changing throughout the year.

Eden Haythornthwaite, former chairwoman of Cowichan board, was among the majority  who voted in favour of the deficit budget. She said she was “shocked” by the additional $300,000 that wasn’t there in June.

“It might have been appropriate for the elected trustees to know about this,” she said.

She added that McKay’s proposed budget fails to take into account public consultation.

“What it’s done is created a vacuum of local representation.”

It’s a concern McKay said he understands. “As we get into the fall, we’ll be looking at some community engagement and information sessions,” he said.

McKay said the priorities set in the budget include early intervention for numeracy and literacy as well as ensuring smooth transitions between grades.

— With files from Lindsay Kines

cclancy@timescolonist.com

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