School District 57 needs $600,000 to cover the cost of heating school buildings this year or it’s going to have to cut its payroll.
“I don’t know for sure where I’m going to find it,” says secretary/treasuer Bryan Mix. “…It’s going to be tough. Ninety per cent of our budget is people. It would be very difficult for me to find money to the tune of $600,000 without some struggles with the staff budget.”
The district is one of several in B.C. who are joining the B.C School Trustees Association in lobbying the province for help.
School board chair Bill Christie wrote a letter directly to Premier Ujjal Dosanjh, with a copy to Prince George North MLA Paul Ramsey earlier this month.
“Our district is a major consumer of natural gas in that 80 percent of our buildings are heated with this type of fuel,” he says. “In fact this district as an entity has more buildings, more classrooms (in square metres) and of more importance, more students than any other public or private organization outside of the Lower Mainland.”
He adds harsh winter climates make the natural gas hikes even more costly to northern school districts.
He continues: “It is my understanding that the provincial and local governments have benefited significantly from these increases. The benefit received is at the expense of education programs. During your mandate, you have consistently stated that your government will maintain and improve the educational opportunities for children. If that is so, you should return these windfall revenues immediately; in fact, failure to do so means classroom layoffs in this district.”
The district has not yet received a response to Mr. Christie’s letter.
The trustees association expects to hear results from the education minister on a funding agreement near the end of this month.