‘We’re like ships being tossed around’: trustee

School District sees return of about one-third of government clawbacks

Trustee John Kerr says when he found out the government was giving back $25 million in clawbacks

It’s not often that an organization is upset at receiving $255,596 to add to its budget, but School District 72 (SD72) feels the money the government is returning to them is somewhat of a slap in the face.

The school district has been informed they – and all other school districts in the province – will not have to fund their portion of the second part of the two-year government “administrative savings” clawback, meaning $25 million will be returned to districts across the province from what had previously been taken.

SD72 Secretary-Treasurer Kevin Patrick told the board on Tuesday night that the district will still need to continue to prove they have made the savings laid out in phase one of the “administrative savings” directive – a cut of about $290,000 that was made last year – but will be granted at least a one year reprieve from phase two.

“As of right now, they know it is effective for 2016-17, but they did not make a commitment that it carries on beyond that,” Patrick told the board.

Trustee John Kerr summed up the seemingly-overarching view of the board by saying while they will consider how to make use of this money in a positive way for the students of the district, “we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that we’ve been given back less than one-third of what was taken from us over the last year and a half.”

“Last year,” Kerr continued, “the government stripped $290,000 from our budget, and that became the baseline for this year. So that $290,000 was also stripped from the budget this year by virtue of the budget being lowered by that amount.”

Basically, he said the fact that the government isn’t taking another quarter-million dollars from SD72’s coffers after already taking more than a half-million isn’t really something worth celebrating.

“I feel like someone who was walking down the street and got mugged, and the robber took my wallet and took $100 out of it and then when bystanders protested, he handed me back 30 bucks,” Kerr said. “I guess I’m conflicted as to whether I should be grateful I got my $30 back or angry that my $70 is gone. Right now, I’m leaning toward the latter.”

Trustees Joyce McMann and Darryl Hagen repeated the now-common sentiment that it would just be nice to know from year to year what they should be expecting, so they can actually plan things and not be constantly caught off guard.

“We’re like ships being tossed around,” McMann said. “We don’t know what we’ve got to work with. We don’t know whether we’ve got the same amount next year. They’re not committing to anything beyond this year, so we’re still in the same boat of not having any sense of how we can establish any kind of stability within our district based on the erratic coming and going of money the government has all the control over.”

Despite the board passing their final 2016-17 budget this week, secretary-treasurer Patrick said there is still time to put this new money to use next year.

“It’s understood by the ministry that most boards will have completed their budget processes, and although they want to see it spent on the students in the 2016-17 budget year, they realize it probably will not be able to be incorporated into a budget until the final budget which the board will pass in February,” he said.

In the meantime, they will be thinking about how best to use the additional revenue and try to appreciate that at least they’ve gotten their metaphorical 30 bucks back.