Teachers and public pitch for funding

Teachers, staff, parents, support workers and district representatives presented their cases for funding Monday as the school district held its first public meeting to determine the 2011 budget.

Over 80 projects request $3.5 million from school district

Teachers, staff, parents, support workers and district representatives presented their cases for funding Monday as the school district held its first public meeting to determine the 2011 budget.

School District 20 heard almost 80 project descriptions totaling over $3.5 million ranging from staffing to implementing new or preserving old programs, and mitigating or upgrading a litany of maintenance and operational concerns.

This is the first of three public meetings in the complex seven-month process and while the upcoming education budget is not yet known, the wish list and accompanying survey will help committee members and district staff to analyze and prioritize data.

“We don’t know the budget yet but if there is a surplus, we will be prepared and can apply it to various areas,” said Aaron McKenzie, a budget review committee member.

As part of the public consultation process, an option for the 40 presenters and members of the public who attended is to complete an online survey to rate the various projects and prioritize them for the benefit of trustees and committee members.

Each presenter was given three minutes to state his or her case for funding and while the first 50 or so kept to the time limit, Kootenay Columbia Teacher’s Union representative Andy Davidoff took the opportunity to take the board to task in numerous areas.

He said the district is failing in its contractual obligations when it comes to maintaining a respectful and healthy workplace; in dealing with harassment, bullying, conflict management, safety, employee wellness and the failure to address up to 1,000 outstanding work orders.

“We need to recognize that we also need to concurrently allocate the resources to improve the culture and climate in our district at many levels,” said Davidoff.

He also noted that many of the projects asked for a maximum dollar amount but would accept less.

Ministry of Education funding is based on projected enrolment and will not be released until March 25. The review committee will then meet to assess funding and draft the first budget, followed by a public meeting on April 4 to discuss the draft and any public-ranking results.

After a series of working sessions and meetings by the board, the budget review committee will pass on recommendations to trustees before a final meeting at the end of April.

Last year, the budget process went through five or six drafts, said district treasurer Kim Morris.

“Last year was more of an educational focus, this year was a lot more maintenance and operations, that kind of surprised us,” she said.