Fraser-Cascade School District 78's administration office.

School board briefs: Trustees debate policy surrounding $3.3-million reserve funds

Also: A 'status quo' budget this coming year and mental health a growing concern

  • May. 17, 2018 12:00 a.m.

Highlights from the Fraser-Cascade School District board of education meeting May 8.

Policy talk on managing reserve funds

Natalie Lowe presented a draft policy on managing school district reserve funds, with the policy recommending the district keep no more than four percent of operating expenses as reserve.

The current reserve, also known as unrestricted operating surplus, the district holds is $3.3 million but Lowe estimated this number will likely go down. “This isn’t going to be a big issue down the road,” she said, referring to the accumulation of reserves that has brought SD78 to this point.

A discussion ensued between trustees on how this reserve fund policy should look.

Rose Tustian recommended looking at how other school districts have crafted their policies and what percentage of reserves they have decided to keep, while Tom Hendrickson said there was no point of looking at other districts as SD78 should have a policy specific to the needs of their district. Board chair Linda Kerr recommended calling the funds reserves, rather than referring to them as a surplus.

If the board were to implement a four per cent cap on reserves held each year, the reserves held in 2018-19 would be just over $1 million.

The school board decided to send the draft policy back to the policy committee.

Budget sees slight increase in spending on staff

SD78 secretary-treasurer Natalie Lowe said it would be a “status quo” budget this year, except for slight increases in staff costs.

Enrolment isn’t changing significantly, she said, and there hasn’t been a large increase in kindergarten students.

“It really is a status quo budget, because (the province is) reviewing their funding formula,” she said. A change to how the province funds schools could be coming next year.

The anticipated increase in spending for teaching staff is $60,000, however, the exact amount is unknown at this point as it depends on class size and composition, Lowe stated in an email. Due to this increased cost, the Ministry of Education increased the amount per pupil given to SD78.

The school district has a $25,173,000 budget for the 2018-2019 year, which starts in June. The budget passed a first and second reading May 8, it will go on to a third reading before being adopted.

Mental health a growing concern

Anxiety and depression, not behavioural issues, are a growing concern in schools said the principal of the Two Rivers Education Centre.

Margaret Smiley runs the alternate school, which has a student body of around 58 students from age 14 to 35, although these numbers vary.

Thirty three per cent of students have moderate behavioural interventions, 17 per cent have intensive behavioural interventions.

Despite the challenge of mental health, Smiley reported successes of TREC students to the board May 8.

The students, who work towards their Dogwood high school diploma, require on average one extra year to graduate. Course completion is also “creeping up” she said.

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