District strikes committee to tackle long standing issues

In the next few months several long standing and contentious issues are set to be tackled for School District 20.

A few skeletons will be rattled out of the school district’s closet in the next few months as several long standing and contentious issues are set to be tackled.

The issues of School District 20’s downtown board office, under utilization of Trail Middle School and revenue generation will all come under the microscope as the board of trustees moved to strike ad hoc committees to examine all three topics.

Trail trustee Mark Wilson—who brought all three motions to light—said it was time for the district to deal with a few issues that have been sore points in the past.

“These are in response to what people in the community have been asking us,” he said.

The first committee will be looking at developing an action plan for the possible relocation of the school board office, currently located in the ground floor of the FortisBC building.

When the notice of lease comes up, Wilson explained, the board needs to be in position to act immediately.

“So we need to be proactively researching out what our options could be right now,” he said.

The 10-year lease on the space where the office is currently located expires on Sept. 30, 2013.

According to the SD20 website, “when the district entered into the 10-year lease agreement it was with the understanding that at the end of it if the landlord purchased the building then the district would own the space it currently occupies and enter into a strata relationship with its former landlord.”

A prepayment in respect of the purchase price of $914,888 was made 10 years ago and would be considered capital money.

But if the landlord does not purchase the building then the district has other options available to it, one of which is having its prepayment returned complete with 10 years of earned interest. It will also be able to move out of the building.

Castlegar rural trustee Mickey Kinakin asked for the board to wait until they had clarification about what they were dealing with before striking the committee to explore options.

“If we do something now, we are kind of doing an end run around that particular process and it is not necessary. This (lease) is in place right now,” he said.

After the motion passed an ad hoc committee to look at the current and future uses of Trail Middle School was passed.

“We don’t have enough students down there and we need to address it and find out why and attract new programs … and make sure this school’s use is enhanced and used to capacity,” said Wilson.

He added after the meeting that he could see the school board offices moving into the building if the lease agreement allowed them to.

“This is one of the newest buildings in the district and it is really under utilized,” Wilson explained.

And rather than cut programs each year the district needs to start generating revenue and add programs, Wilson said when he introduced his third motion to set up a committee to look at revenue generation.

Business owners consistently come up with ideas to generate money, he said, and the district needs to do that as well.

The committee would investigate some revenue generation ideas and bring them back to the board for action.

According to the SD20 website, a district committee once existed to look at revenue generation but never generated much money.

“Funds generated have traditionally been reinvested in the specific program generating them (e.g. sports academies, international) and only in the past few years has the district started to use those funds to help address overall district budget pressures.”

Out of province and international students do pay fees to the district to be involved in the programs. Some of the fees paid by the families go toward agents, some go to schools to cover supplies and fees, but most go toward staff involved in the program (academy teacher or international program coordinator or home-stay coordinator).

B.C. students involved in an academy program do not generate any additional fees (beyond the basic per pupil grant).

“The district’s international program has been operating on a self‐sustaining basis for almost its entirety,” said SD20’s website.

Money generated from the program was reinvested in the program and covers operating costs. In 2011/2012 budget year for the first time, $60,000 generated from the program was not reinvested in the program but rather used as revenue for the overall district budget.