As the local Board of Education begins to prepare its 2014/15 budget, trustees express frustration at having to consider significant cuts of over $5 million for the second year in a row. Their collective concern is that all of the cuts made now will have an impact on students and their families.
In their discussion of the budget, board members acknowledged that any responsible organization the size of the school district should continually be looking for efficiencies, and commended staff for doing just that for many years. The board, however, characterized the current dilemma as being too great to address through good management practices alone.
The problem stems from a lack of provincial funding to cover increased expenses in areas over which the board has no control. These expenses include the provincially negotiated settlement with CUPE union members, utility fee hikes, increased employer paid pension plan contributions as well as other increased benefit costs. Other inflationary pressures together with a funding formula that penalizes districts with declining enrollment only worsen an already challenging situation.
Trustees have been advocating to government for some time for more realistic funding. They have been joined in this effort by other school boards, the BC School Trustees Association, and partner groups such as the District Parent Advisory Council, the Maple Ridge Teacher’s Association and the Canadian Union of Public Employees. Unfortunately, these collective efforts have not resulted in any funding changes that would address the described cost pressures.
As locally elected representatives, board members feel it is their responsibility to alert the public to the funding inadequacies faced over the past several years, and urge parents to let local MLAs Marc Dalton and Doug Bing as well as the provincial government know that they believe the problem is serious and requires more attention and funding.
In speaking to the issue, Board Chair Mike Murray said, “Both the BC School Trustees Association and the bipartisan select standing committee on government finances have acknowledged the problem and called on government to respond with increased education funding. By issuing this release, we hope those with the greatest stake in the system, our students’ parents, will help us make the case that public education is important and needs more support.”
The Maple Ridge – Pitt Meadows Board of Education will consider a proposed preliminary budget for 2014-15 on April 9th and welcomes public input on the proposed preliminary budget by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and in person at the meeting scheduled for April 16th at 6 p.m. in the Maple Ridge Secondary School Cafeteria.