School trustee and board chair Ravi Parmar (Black Press file photo)

SD62 board passes $143M budget, lone opposition concerned over library funding cuts

District expects to add 400 students this September, bringing the total to 11,226

Sooke School District 62 school board on Tuesday put its stamp on a $143 million budget for the upcoming 2019-20 school year.

The motion passed 6-1, with board member Wendy Hobbs opposed. Her point of departure was a $100,000 funding cut from library assistance.

“Our IT budget was for $1.1 million. So I suggested to the board, why don’t we just take that $100,000 from it, put our people back in, and then they don’t have to worry all summer that they’re not going to be working,” Hobbs told Black Press Media.

The cut will result in fewer hours, “less pay, [fewer] benefits,” she said.

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“This is my 24th year. I can’t remember voting against the budget, but I just felt strong enough that we could have done it differently.”

“I can only speak on behalf of the board and [Hobbs] can speak for herself, but we only have so much money,” the chair Ravi Parmar said.

Parmar said the district is underfunded and has been unable to meet classroom needs for technology in the past years as the student body is growing. “When we talk about adding on portables … we have to put projectors in there, we have to add Wifi – and maintenance – and cables and that sort of stuff.”

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The district has “at least a dozen” new staff each year that require IT support, he noted. The money will go toward a “significant” update, bringing Chromebooks and iPads into the classroom and adding new IT staff member, he added.

The school district is expecting to add 400 students this September, bringing the total to 11,226 students.

By comparison, in 2018, the total was 10,860. The provincial government allocated the budget on a per-student basis and projected increase.

Investments highlighted in the release include: ten early childhood educators in kindergarten classrooms, Reading Recovery teachers in all SD62 elementary schools, funding for school health initiatives, including SOGI implementation, additional funding for information technology (IT) needs, teacher staffing above required ratios in the current collective agreement and additional staffing in IT, Finance, HR and Facilities to match growth in the district.

The spending last year set aside a little over $2 million for groundskeeping, a figure that has gone down to $798,182 for this year.

The expense was “one-time funding” for two projects, Parmar said: field repairs at Happy Valley and École Poirier elementary schools.

“We’ve had issues with a lot of our older schools – the fields just get really muddy for most of the year.” Those fields were “dug up” and relaid with grass. The current funding is more in line with, but still higher than, the norm, he noted.



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