March 26/14: The Record Off The Record: Special Board Meeting Public Budget Presentation: “One-Time Only Savings”, Again

This was a special (annual) meeting to present the 2014/2015 School District 61 budget for public education provision in five municipalities of the CRD (Victoria, Oak Bay, Esquimalt, View Royal, and parts of Saanich and the Highlands). Special thanks to the 1 member of the public who attended, Rob Paynter.

Slides in this gallery were produced by School District 61 senior administration / the School District 61 Secretary-Treasurer, and also appear on the SD61 website, for now.
Budget meeting public 2014_03_26

There was no in camera meeting before the public meeting.

Special Board Budget Meeting
Chair: Orcherton
Present: Alpha, Ferris, Horsman, Leonard, McEvoy, McNally, Nohr
By conference call: Loring-Kuhanga

This was a special (annual) meeting to present the 2014/2015 School District 61 budget for public education provision in five municipalities of the CRD (Victoria, Oak Bay, Esquimalt, View Royal, and parts of Saanich and the Highlands). Special thanks to the 1 member of the public who attended, Rob Paynter.

The presentation of the slides went very quickly, and was over by 7:25. This is a lot of information to consider in 25 minutes. Trustees had not seen the slides before this presentation; at least, this one hadn’t.

At one point after the presentation during  my questions and requests for clarification the Chair reminded me that this was my third time through a SD61 budget cycle, possibly implying that I should “get it” by now. The fee for my Mensa membership just doesn’t seem to be paying off here as I continue to struggle with this amount of  budget related information for the 6th largest employer in the CRD presented in 25 minutes. This is not a community soccer league budget.  The 2013-14 line item budget is 3.5 cm thick.

Discussion followed the presentation by the Secretary–Treasurer.

  • Ferris: Very sorry to see reduction in Learning Mentors [half day positions at schools, formerly called Literacy Mentors, often vice principals; in  Slide 11. Slides numbered at bottom; two slides in the gallery above have been rearranged to sit at the beginning]. Are there other ways that mentorship occurs?   [BCTF is developing a Mentorship for New Teachers program.]
  • Superintendent: Each school uses mentor in different ways. There are opportunities across the District for teachers, sometimes along with principals and vice-principals, to  work together collaboratively– Learning Initiatives provides some, the Greater Victoria Teachers Association  provides some;there are  the Enhancing Learning grants  [see p5 Report on Achievement ].
  • Ferris: 25% increase in income from  field and facility rentals – how will that be implemented? Are new fees reflective of elsewhere in Victoria ? [Slide 21]
  • Director of Facilities: Yes; considering examples like Saanich Parks, City of Victoria and others, costs for rental will be in line with those or under. A secondary school gym in SD61 rents for $30/hr now and will go to $37/hr. Average rental fee is $40/hr in other Districts and the City.
  • Ferris: We should have some kind of mechanism to raise rates by formula annually, as is in place for the Trustee stipend every three years. [Recent proposal to raise Trustee stipend was declined by majority. With new terms for municipal elections going to four years with the November 2014 elections, this will have to be revisited.  FYI, BC School Trustees Board stipends are tied to teacher bargained raises.]

Ferris said it’s always awkward for trustees to boost their own salaries. That’s why a previous board decided in 2005 to review trustees’ pay automatically every three years and compare it with the average of five similar districts: Central Okanagan, Abbotsford, Langley, Richmond and Burnaby. Based on that formula, trustees’ annual salary would have jumped more than 10 per cent to $19,270 a year from $17,424 in January 2012.

“The annual honorarium for the [former, then and now SD61 Trustee, now president of the CSBA] president (McEvoy)  is $15,757 while the vice-president [now president] (Teresa Rezansoff) gets $7,878 and the five directors each get $5,628.What surprised me most – apart from the association’s unwillingness to talk about its finances – is that BCSTA staff salary increases are tied to teacher-negotiated settlements. [March 12, 2013 Janet Steffenhagen, Vancouver Sun]

  • McNally: Slide 22 personnel reductions are, we’ve been told, CUPE 947  (4.64), CUPE 382  (.68), GVTA (5.11), Principals (1). Is it probable that all these individuals in these positions will be able to avoid layoff due to retirements this spring?
  • Superintendent: The Office Senior Admin Assistant is vacant now; others may not all be layoffs.
  •  McNally: Slide 21: Will the 15% increase in out of school care rates be passed on to families?
  •  Superintendent: That will be a decision of the providers.
  •  McNally: Slide 19: What are the Learning Mentors doing now? Was familiar with them when teaching in SD61 but role may have changed.
  • Superintendent: Half day positions in schools. Work with Learning Initiatives; get support from L.I. to go back to schools with information. Used to be termed “.1 Literacy Mentors” but descriptor was changed at the request of the GVTA as the job manifested differently in every school according to school decision. Some responsibilities were developed through School Growth Plans; was done collaboratively.
  • McEvoy: Re the child care costs, as a District we can’t subsidize child care costs.
  • Director of Facilities: Child care agreement based on cost recovery.SD61 faces a 9% increase in hydro next year and the year after that; 3% unfunded provincial agreement with CUPE for custodians next year; at a 15% increase for rental for out of school care SD61 will  just break even.
  • McEvoy: International School student increase:  would like figures for past 5 years.What has the profit margin looked like? What has the International Student Program actually contributed to the budget over the last 5 years? [Info will be provided]
  • Secretary-Treasurer: $2.2 million has been a consistent figure but always plan conservatively as the offshore / international student marketplace is very competitive.  Targeted margin at 30% profit after expenses.
  • McEvoy: What would be the effect of a reduction of teacher-student ratio at high schools  by .1? [This means increasing class sizes.]
  • Alpha: Presently a shortfall for this year of $52,000. Have been listening to Sundance parents and teachers – if that $52,000 were applied to the Sundance figure, that leaves about $202, 681 to find to keep the school open. What alternative choices are there to closing the Sundance program?
  • Secretary-Treasurer: 90% of SD61 expenses are salary and benefits. Have hit supplies and services quite hard with reductions. To find the other money would mean staff reductions, equivalent to  4 teachers, or 8 EAs, or 10 school assistants, or 6 clerical assistants, or 6 custodians, or eliminate 16 vice principals at K-5.
  • Alpha: We need to look at some other things. SD61 has a deficit in part because the provincial al government didn’t fund the well-deserved CUPE raise or the hydro rate increases, and have downloaded costs from government to school Boards. What would  the effect of reductions in $202,000 worth of supplies ? Could find that somewhere.
  • Superintendent: This would affect people, for example 4 hours per day for a custodian at 10 schools, 3 or 4 teachers at K-5 which equates to the elementary strings program, or increasing class sizes. [SD61’s Learning Initiatives Team consists of three teachers and a District Principal who do not teach directly, but “teach teachers’ and provide In-District professional development. This service comes at a cost.]
  •  Alpha: What about a closer look at I.T. computers, upgrades to software and hardware?
  •  Superintendent: Have made a 10% budget cut for supplies at Tolmie Building; many computers provided by the District are used refurbished computers; schools decide  on other technology.
  • Alpha: Increase supply cuts by 5% at high school and middle schools? Community partnerships for IT?
  • Superintendent: Inner city schools supported by community partners in various ways.
  • Ocherton: The Superintendent knows what the Boards priorities are. But it might be helpful to know what was looked at.
  • Superintended: Difficult decisions. SD61 is known for music programs. Senior administration team had to think of how many students would be affected. SD61 is a Learning Organization. We can’t decimate the department responsible for increasing graduate rates. Cutting Learning Mentors was heartbreaking but tried to keep cuts away from the classrooms and to balance cuts.
  • Nohr: If Sundance were reframed as a neighbourhood school, how would that affect the revenue stream and how would it affect the school?  Oaklands and Willows are very full.
  • Superintended: School catchment areas would have to be redrawn and that would limit the catchment areas of other schools. Would not change things much for Sundance as the building can only take 100 students.
  • Nohr: What effect would a 15% reduction in supplies have at all levels? And what about Superintendent’s tech grant budget?
  • Secretary-Treasurer: K-5 would find it hard to deal with a 15% supply reduction.
  • Superintendent: Tech funds are distributed to schools. $6500,000 goes to schools for school based decisions.
  • Nohr: How much money goes to music programs outside the timetable? In Sooke and some other districts all music programming is provided within the timetable / usual daily school hours. How many extra teachers does it take to provide this outside the timetable music?  [Many SD61 music teachers work on  fragmented timetables, aka “split shifts” as they offer music programs that are timetabled before and after school.]
  • Superintendent : Information not  available at this point. Some teachers have time off during the day as part of this timetabling.
  • Loring-Kuhanga: Slide 6 shows a reduction in adult student revenue. Any ideas how to increase adult ed population? Relocating Sundance really equates to closing the school for $316,182 in savings. Was the transportation assistance to get to Lakehill of $44,000 that was proposed by Orcherton on Monday night  included in that amount? Given increased custodial costs at Lakehill and costs to maintain and insure the Sundance building, would we really save the entire $316, 182? Let’s look at some other options. There has  to be some other things to choose from.
  •  Associate Superintendent Duncan: In this economy adults are working, not returning to school to upgrade. The Ministry of Education changed the funding two years ago and that had an impact too.
  • Orcherton: The busing proposal costs [in a motion proposed by Orcherton but defeated – apparently  some trustees did have access to this information before tonight] were not included in the savings amount. That $44,000 would have come out of the $53,000 surplus we have for this one year.
  •  Secretary-Treasurer: The Lakehill and Sundance operations costs were included in the savings calculation.
  • Leonard: What were the approximate number of retirements last year? Attrition is a structural saving (ongoing). Closing Sundance program is people vs buildings. If a Trustee wants to take Sundance off the table, that person has to come up with a motion that addresses another or other reductions in a specific way.
  • Secretary-Treasurer: Around 35-40 non-CUPE last year. This year probably at least 20. Fewer CUPE; probably 5 per year.
  • Horsman: Sundance is a District School. If it became a neighbourhood school it would lose the Sundance program. It’s not big enough either. The $53,000 contingency we have now could mean a job.
  • McNally: Moved: That the cost savings from holding off on wifi installation in any K-5 schools for this year be applied to keeping Sundance open.
  • Orcherton: Can’t make that motion now. 
  • McNally: Following Leonard’s suggestion. Will make it  elsewhere if cost savings  are provided for me.
  •  Alpha: Would like savings possibilities  figures for supply cuts at 17% for high schools, 13% for middle schools, 6% for elementary schools.
  • Orcherton [and all]: Thanks to administration for work on this. Always difficult to make these decisions.

Adjournment: 8:35 pm

Questions from above discussion answered in email March 27 am by the Secretary-Treasurer:

1.  By way of background information, the school supply budgets were reduced 10% in 2011 and there have been no increases for inflation in the past five years.  A supplies budget reduction affects all schools and all students

  • What is the increase in the school supplies budget reduction if middle and elementary school supply budget reductions were also at 15%?   Answer: $169,474
  • What is the increase in the school supplies budget reduction if the reduction was 17% at secondary, 13% at middle and 6% at elementary?  Answer: $62,329

2. What is the budget reduction resulting from a 0.1 change to the secondary staffing ratio (resulting in an increase in class size)?  Answer: $79,320
3. What would the savings be if no schools had wi-fi installed this year?   Answer: The district has committed $1,600 per elementary school to provide wireless access points. [Including labour and bandwith? In the past a price of $800 per router has been brought forward.]  At the present time there are ten elementary schools that have completed the consultation process and are waiting for their installation.
4.  What is the differential between the preliminary and the final operating budget contribution from the International Student Program for the past five years?  Answer:  As has been stated, the international marketplace is very competitive and not always predictable.  In preparing the preliminary operating budget, it is important to use enrolment estimates that will be realized since it is very difficult to make mid-year budget reductions should the enrolment forecast not be achieved.  Furthermore, we continue to have a substantial structural deficit each year.  Any increased contribution has been put towards the following year’s deficit.  Below is the five year history of the International Student Program  operating fund budget contribution:

Prelim Budget                 Final Budget                    Differential

2013-2014                        $2,453,908                       $2,654,694                       $200,787
2012-2013                        $2,311,758                       $2,721,875                       $410,116
2011-2012                        $2,070,002                       $2,421,319                       $351,317
2010-2011                        $2,146,102                       $2,345,665                       $199,563
2009-2010                        $2,129,496                       $2,190,786                       $  61,289

Next Meetings

Thursday March 27, 6:30 pm Tolmie Board Room:  Sundance School program relocation / school closure 
Monday April 7, 7:30 pm Tolmie Board Room: Education Policy Standing Committee Budget Meeting:
March 27 – April 2 SPCs and partner groups review and provide feedback on budget proposals; feedback is developed
Wednesday April 2, 7 pm SJ Willis AuditoriumSpecial Board Budget Meeting to receive public budget input presentations
Wednesday April 8, 7 pm SJ Willis Auditorium: Round table Special Board Budget Meeting to discuss the 2014-2015 operating  budget
Monday April 14 7:30 pm Tolmie Board Room: Operations Policy and Planning  Committee Special Budget meeting; public input received
Tuesday April 22 7:30 pm:  Regular Board meeting, Tolmie Board Room:
Wednesday April 23 7 pm Tolmie Board Room:
Special Board meeting to debate and approve the annual budget / Approval [or not] of the 2014/2015 annual budget bylaw