The Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board and all other boards have been given the final percentages for the upcoming fiscal year. Our decrease is 2.47% which equals $3.4 million. Added to this reduction, is cost pressures that the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board is expected to absorb which previously were handled by the Department of Education. These include: N.S.T.U. and C.U.P.E. negotiated increases, N.S.T.U. increments & raises in licenses that total $1.5 million plus fuel/electricity increases which will be in the $300,000. range. The $3.4 million reduction becomes a $6.2 million decrease, which is more like a 4.5 – 5% decrease. While this is better than the 22% reduction exercise over three years that we participated in, it is still very significant. We have not been told what to expect in years 2 or 3; however, we expect two more difficult years ahead.
The task of reducing our budget by $6 million for next year is a daunting one to say the least. The provincial average cut to boards is 1.65% of total funding. There are some restrictions on budget allocations that boards are mandated to follow to realize a balanced budget. These include 15% in administration and a 50% reduction in Consultants over three years. Math and Literacy Mentors are to be cut by 50%, this at a time when we are struggling with our math scores. Reading Recovery will be eliminated with two thirds of the Reading Recovery budget allocated for a new Literacy Intervention program. Class size caps for grades primary to three may be increased by 2 [from 25) by request. The amount of funding for special needs will be maintained by the province. The Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board spends much more than the allocated funds for special needs and it will be a challenge to continue to do so.
We are now starting the process of budget preparation for next year under these circumstances. To say that reductions will ‘not affect all programs and services’ would be a misnomer. We will certainly aim to keep them to the minimum as best we can. Direct support for students and school based staff continues to be a goal for all at the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board. With that said, a $6 million reduction may lead to reductions to these areas we hold so near and dear to our hearts. The task again is a difficult one, and we will endeavor to provide the best education possible for all students of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board.
The month of February is dedicated to African Heritage. School communities within the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board focus on and celebrate these wide and varied contributions of the African Canadian culture and community. The theme of African Heritage month is: “We are Connected” linking the relationship of the African Canadian community with that of the province and indeed the country and entire world. Our schools celebrate this theme in unique and interesting ways. Speakers, displays, meals and other cultural events are part of this month long celebration. I encourage board members and the public to check school web sites to witness the various activities sponsored by our schools.
On another note Mr. Chairman, I would like to acknowledge all of the hard work and dedication of our Operational Services staff with the roofing issue at the George D. Lewis School. The school was back in operation after one week and repairs continue. Our Programs, School Services & Human Resources staff worked with the staff of the school to help them through this difficult period and to provide work packages to the students. The Principal of Riverside Elementary School, Campbell MacDonald, and staff accommodated the George D. Lewis staff for the week and treated them grandly. Thanks to all for making the best of this difficult situation.
Mr. Chairman, I would like to direct your attention and that of the board members and staff, to read the comments from our school principals that are placed on individual school websites. These items represent the awards, achievements and successes of our students and staff within the boundaries of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional school Board. Again, I ask the principals to ensure that these important communications are kept up-to-date.
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