More community consultations focus on SD79 budget decisions

More than 200 are residents took part in two recent community consultations meetings aimed at helping the Cowichan Valley School District formulate a budget likely to leave more than a few unhappy. - Andrew Leong/file
More than 200 are residents took part in two recent community consultations meetings aimed at helping the Cowichan Valley School District formulate a budget likely to leave more than a few unhappy.
— image credit: Andrew Leong/file

It's no secret School District 79 is facing some difficult decisions in an era of declining enrollment and increased costs before its 2013-14 budget is formulated.

Community Consultation sessions are preparing the public for potential harsh realities about cuts and to find potential solutions. The second Saturday of sessions opened the doors to public feedback for two-hour meetings in the south zone at George Bonner Middle School and the central zone at Quamichan Middle School.

The general mood was positive from both the perspective of the public and SD79 administrators.

"It is my assessment that the presentation was well-received by participants which meant a positive attitude towards answering the questions presented,'' offered Gerry Masuda, who attended the meeting at Quamichan. "In my opinion, the public consultation was successful.''

"I was so appreciative of how thoughtful and engaged people were,'' said SD79 superintendent Joe Rhodes.

"I don't think we heard anything particularly new. We heard pros and cons of things we've been thinking about.''

There was more than a hundred people in attendance at each session. After a 20 to 25-minute presentation, a set of five questions was put before the public to engage in conversation:

. What unique or special issues do you think are facing the south (central) zone of our district with respect to delivering education programs and services and facilities?

. How do we keep our education system viable within the reality of diminishing revenue, declining enrollment and unused space?

. What matters most to you as the district tries to balance providing programs and services with facilities?

. What would you let go of in order to keep the most important programs, services or facilities?

. Do you see other changes we can make throughout the school district to increase revenues and/or reduce expenditures?

Some lively discussion followed.

"People who came were there to contribute,'' said Rhodes. "I think we got positive feedback with the format.''

Rhodes said on Feb. 6 the district will roll out some potential ideas. He added that's necessary because a 90-day consultation process is required for decisions to be made in May if any school closures are considered.

One way to solve the reduced school budget allocations could not be discussed, Masuda pointed out.

"It is for our provincial government to reverse its tax cut policy and clawing back the tax cuts to the richest individuals and corporations since 2001. These tax cuts caused the government deficits reflected in declining school budgets for SD79.''




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