Budget first priority for school trustees 

Chris Vernon-Jarvis, Christine Buttkus studying funding formulas

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“The concern is that your budget might shrink and the number of students, but your overhead costs don’t,” he said. “You still have to keep schools opened, they still have to be maintained and cleaned, you still have to run a school bus whether you have 56 students or 48. If the student roll goes any smaller, then we could have problems in the future.

“You also can’t replace technology as quickly as you should because there’s little or no money left over in the budget at the end of the year.”

The school board is in the process of assessing its long-term needs, determining what the demand for elementary and secondary education will be. Vernon-Jarvis says the exercise will help schools plan for the future.

“We’ve been working on our budgets in consultation with our partners in an open process, which is the new open idea of running things,” said Vernon-Jarvis. “We talk to the teachers, to principals and vice principals, to PACs (Parent Advisory Councils) and other stakeholders that can comment on our budget. We take those comments into consideration all the time, and we keep stakeholders up to date with all of the issues.”

Buttkus, who will sit down with the board for the first time on Dec. 10, is spending the next few weeks reading to become more familiar with all of the issues.

While there were a lot of issues brought up in the course of the election — class sizes, special needs students, provincial education funding, the Olympic calendar, provincial exams, full-day kindergarten, attracting more international students — she also believes the biggest challenge is balancing the budget and possible funding shortfalls.

“There’s a real need to look closely at funding formulas and what it means in terms of classroom composition,” she said. “A lot of people I met over the course of the campaign raised the issue of support for students with special needs. It’s a challenge for teachers, who are being asked to do more with less.”

Buttkus said the campaign was an intense but rewarding process, and that she hopes the other candidates stay involved.

“I hope all the people who were not successful this time around will stay engaged in the process and work with us,” she said. “We need an active and engaged community, and to work together to stay on top of the issues.”

Not as many people voted for school trustees as for mayor and council, but Vernon-Jarvis was the clear winner with 933 votes. Buttkus earned 584 votes, 28 more than runner-up Amy Allen.

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