Investing in ‘What’s Best for Students’ Theme of 2015-16 Budget
DSBN students can continue to enjoy the same level of outstanding educational services they have come to expect from the District School Board of Niagara with the proposed budget for the 2015-16. On June 9, 2015, Trustees voted to adopt the 2015-16 budget valued at $432,075,342.
“We are very pleased to be able to present a balanced budget that maintains our Board’s high level of support for students,” said Sue Barnett, Chair of the Board.
Government funding to Special Education is in the second year of an increase phased in over four years; however, the DSBN continues to spend more on Special Education than is provided for through government grants. “We view this as a critically important area and have invested accordingly,” said Kevin Maves, Chair of the Finance Committee. “There is positive news here as well, as we have been able to reduce the Special Education deficit by approximately $1 million dollars.” With two more years of government funding anticipated, the Board has determined that they will be able to eliminate this deficit.
The new budget also will see further investments in mathematics education and the health and well-being of students. Two additional social workers will be hired in time for the new school year. With the success of 500 teachers obtaining their Board-sponsored Mathematics AQ courses, the Board is once again offering free mathematics AQ courses to teachers and investing an additional $100,000 in Dreambox, an online math learning tool for students, which was implemented in 2012/13.
To preserve programs and services for students, it was necessary for the DSBN to find efficiencies in other areas of the budget. “Reducing expenditures on utilities and maintenance was critical to achieving a balanced budget,” said Maves. “These savings were only possible because of previous decisions to consolidate schools and eliminate unused space. Those decisions have had a direct and positive impact on our ability to support students’ education.”
Developing the budget was not without its challenges. To encourage school boards to reduce excess pupil spaces across the province, the government is eliminating the base top-up funding programs that have typically supported the operation of very small schools. This shift will see the Board lose $1.5 million dollars next year, for a total loss of over $4.5 million dollars by 2017-18.
Board Chair Sue Barnett expects the DSBN to continue examining its inventory of school buildings to ensure funds are directed to educational programming and not towards maintaining underutilized facilities. As noted previously, the government is incentivizing Boards to review excess space by directing funding away from small schools. “We’ll continue to look at this process with the lens of what is best for students,” said Chair Barnett.