Greater Trail school board saves cash by moving office

SD 20's lease on the downtown Trail Fortis building expires Sept 30, allowing the district to move to the former Trail Middle School.

There are 20,000 reasons why the next school district budget might not cut so deep.

Since 1999, at a cost of $20,000 per year, School District 20 has been subletting office space in the downtown Trail Fortis building.

When that lease expires on Sept. 30, the school board offices will move to the Kootenay Columbia Learning Centre (formerly called Trail Middle School) in East Trail.

“This has been a pressing item for a long time,” said Mark Wilson, trustee.

“Luckily our lease is expiring and we can get out of that building into a facility that we own,” he said.

“And not only recuperate some good money, but save some as well.”

Wilson is referring to the terms of the agreement between SD20 and West Kootenay Power (WKP) Corporation (now Fortis) 14 years ago.

SD20 entered into an option to purchase the leased premises for $914,888 on June 30, 2013 by providing WKP a $157,469 prepayment.

The prepayment (less GST) accrued an interest at over 12 per cent, compounded monthly, until the option was exercised.

However, because the board has voted to move on, according to the terms of the agreement, WKP must return the initial option payment, plus $760,773 accrued interest.

This item was listed on the 2013-14 budget adjustments, said Natalie Verigin, SD20 secretary treasurer.

She added that there is office space capacity at TMS, and the move will create $20,000 in operational savings.

Although the SD20 board continues its juggle to balance the 2013-14 final budget, one figure that won’t be adjusted anytime soon is the number of trustees on its board.

At a meeting earlier this month, the board-appointed electoral review committee decided “not to pursue further review of trustee electoral issues,” said Darrel Ganzert, board chair, at the June 17 meeting.

“I am disappointed with the outcome,” said Wilson.

“We have the same number of trustees with 13 fewer schools.”

In March, the board appointed a review committee to re-examine SD 20 electoral arrangements including: the total number of trustees; the number, boundaries and names of district wards; the number of trustees in each ward; and the trustee to elector ratio.

Each area of the district has different values, and changing the voting situation could mean that “some of us may not be represented in the way we should be,” said Trustee Jen Carter, in an earlier interview.

“I understand it is hard for someone to say “no” to their job,” said Wilson.

“But I believe we can hand it with less trustees.”

SIDEBAR

A special open board meeting will be held on Wednesday at the Kootenay Columbia Learning Centre (formerly called Trail Middle School) in East Trail., 6 p.m., to address the CommunityLINK budget.

Last Monday, the board announced its decision to pull over $19,000 from the CommunityLINK budget to pay for the cost of an elementary counsellor.

With a budget reduced to $87,000, three community schools will be feeling the squeeze to their child and youth at risk programs.

It is important to note that $50,000 of that is surplus funds, said Verigin.

“Once that is spent we will have zero surplus CommunityLINK funds,” she added.