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Monday, 27 June 2011 15:11

Chinook Division administration feels good about budget

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By Chris Jaster
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The Chinook School Division is trying to continue growing while avoiding potential crises in the future in their 2011-12 budget.

Chinook received $705,650 less from the provincial government for the upcoming school year when it released its budget in March. Fearing the division may receive another decrease next year, based on enrolment decreases, Chinook has worked to keep expenses to a minimum next school year.

If their numbers hold true, Chinook should show a $3.98 million surplus. Approximately $2.76 million of that surplus is non-cash used for amortization leaving the division with a $1.22 million cash surplus.

It expenditures are set to increase by $1.69 million more next school year, which is approximately 2.1 per cent.

The division was targeting a two per cent increase in expenditures.

“The measures that we have taken is that we have not increased our program costs,” said Rod Quintin, the division’s secretary-treasurer. “We have basically gone at the level of inflation and any changes to our program have been a redirection of existing money from another program offering.”

Although the division is looking at both a cash and a public sector accounting board (PSAB) basis, which is based on amortization of capital assets method of accounting, any funds coming from an operational surplus are not allowed to be used to make for years in which the division is facing an operational deficit.

Based on that, the division is looking at using its proposed surplus to build a new bus garage on the same property as the divisional office in Swift Current.

“When we initially bought this site we were anticipating that at some point down the road we would have an opportunity to put up a bus facility,” said Quintin. “The board has been looking at this for close to a year now for what options were available to us. We need to provide some more service to be able to service the equipment we have.

“The (board was) provided a few options and the chosen option was the potential to construct a new facility on this site. We anticipate this cost to be approximately $4.2 million, including all the fees and taxes. When it's done, it will provide us with the capacity and service that we have in the city and in the surrounding area.”

Chinook is planning on going out on its own to pay for the bus facility as it doesn’t believe the government will supply funding for it. It still needs permission from the Ministry of Education before it can go forward with the project, which it is asking for as part of the budget.

Quintin doesn’t expect to hear back from the Ministry of Education on whether its budget is approved until later this summer.

Quintin, and Chinook director of education Liam Choo-Foo, were also happy to announce that two full-time equivalent teachers have been hired to provide support services for Hutterian schools.

The division found space for those positions by decreasing the amount of staff that will be working on the division’s balance literacy and balanced math programs. The balanced literacy initiative wrapped up with the end of the 2010-11 school year and two full-time equivalent staff members are left to maintain it.

Four people who will be working part time will be managing the new math initiative that is to start next year. Although there will be fewer coaches for the teachers, there will be team leaders at each school to support the division’s teaching staff.

Choo-Foo believes fewer staff will be needed as most of the legwork for setting up dashboards — ways for teachers to quickly determine how much knowledge of a course a student has — was completed with the literacy program.

“We feel pretty good in that we've been able to devise a plan that we'll be able to maintain the balanced literacy, that will introduce the math and help provide the sustainability of the Hutterian education at no net increased cost for us,” said Choo-Foo.

The budget was approved by Chinook’s board at its monthly meeting June 27. It was submitted to the Ministry of Education for final approval.

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