Board questions funding

School board has questions about funding
North Bay Nugget (ON)   15 Aug 2007     Jennifer Hamilton-McCharles

The chairman of the Near North District School Board spent Tuesday with
budget officials and staff crunching numbers and discussing a $2.1-million
funding boost the board wasn't anticipating.

The area's four school boards will share $3.5 million of a $182-million provincial announcement.

"I'm a little leery to say what we could do with this money," Al Bottomley said Tuesday.

"We don't know what it really means, if it's ongoing or if it's one-time
money," Bottomley said. "We have a lot of questions, but our business people
are looking at it and we expect to know the full details by Friday.

"I want to see if there are any ties and conditions and then it will be up
to the board to decide what to spend it on. I know my phone will be ringing
off the hook once people hear about this."

The Near North board received the largest funding allocation in the region.
Conseil scolaire catholique Franco-Nord was awarded almost $525,000, Conseil
scolaire public du Nord-Est de l'Ontario received more than $519,000 and
Nipissing Parry Sound District Catholic School Board was given almost $371,000.

Nipissing MPP Monique Smith said the funding is meant to address issues like
maintenance and operation of schools, transportation, staffing and school supplies.

She said the funding boost should help boards, especially Near North, deal
with its budget pressures.

"The formula is a work in progress and we're trying to address areas of
concern," Smith said.

"I'm delighted the Minister of Education found additional money to assist
school boards meet balanced budget targets."

The funding boost comes just after the Near North board approved a
controversial budget that meant cutting the jobs of 50 education assistants,
office and clerical staff, secretaries and custodial workers. About 22
elementary teaching positions will also be cut from the board's staff
through early retirements.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents many of the staff
affected by the cuts, and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation,
representing education assistants, had asked the board to consider passing a
one per cent deficit budget, but their request was rejected.

Sid Ryan, Ontario president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, said
the announcement is in direct response to union pressure, but the details
are more about the Oct. 10 election.

"We raised the alarm last month that 60 per cent of school boards were
issuing layoffs due to insufficient provincial funding. With today's
announcement, the government has now agreed with us that the funding formula
is flawed and we can take credit for that."

The province's school boards have been promised an additional $127 million
for the 2008-09 school year to improve the quality of education and help
school boards manage their budgets.

The funding is on top of a $781-million funding boost announced in March.

2007 Osprey Media Group Inc.