With the Education Minister scheduled to rule on amalgamation proposals for school districts in one month, trustees for the Howe Sound District this week told ministry representatives they don’t want to be part of any amalgamation plans.
"It’s in the best interest of the children for us to stand alone," said trustee Laurie Vance. "The board will get more money per pupil if it stands alone and it makes more sense geographically and for our population."
Trustees made their 30-minute presentation to the steering committee on school district amalgamation Wednesday in Vancouver. They had been scheduled to make the presentation last week on the Sunshine Coast but refused to appear there to make the point that it is impractical to travel from the Howe Sound District to the Sunshine Coast.
Under former Education Minister Art Charbonneau’s proposal Howe Sound would have amalgamated with the Sunshine Coast and Powell River School Districts. The amalgamation plans are intended to save the Education Ministry money by, among other things, reducing administration costs.
However, trustee Ele Clarke said administration costs make up no more than 2 per cent of the Howe Sound School District’s budget. Across the province, administration averages about 4 per cent of school districts’ budgets. Moreover, the salaries of principals and vice principals are included under administration.
"It’s been suggested that it could come down to not having vice principals," Clarke said.
The Howe Sound presentation Wednesday included reducing the number of trustees in the district from nine to five, although how the trustees would be distributed has yet to be determined.
Reducing the number of trustees would produce some small cost savings but further cuts would be required. Each district is expected to cut $600,000 from its budget this year and further cuts are expected next year, due to reductions in federal transfers.
The board has some ideas about where those cuts could be made but trustees did not give specifics.
"I feel as a trustee, other than having input into the presentation, I have very little control," Clarke said.
The Howe Sound School District was just one of many districts making presentations to the steering committee Wednesday.
Education Minister Paul Ramsey is expected to rule on amalgamation proposals by April 15.