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School board tackles huge budget deficit

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The public school board is looking at a $680,000 shortfall after trustees finalized the budget last night—despite an $80,000 revenue increase due to higher-than-expected enrolment.

Superintendent of Business Jack McMillan told trustees the $680,000 shortfall for the 1998 fiscal year had to be covered by reserves this year.

This has all but depleted the board’s reserves, and they will not be able to do the same thing next year, McMillan noted.

“At the end of the day, what this budget tells us is we have to decrease our spending by $680,000 or raise our revenue by $680,000,” said John McLeod, acting director of education for the Rainy River District School Board.

“And since we can’t raise taxes any more, we can’t do [the latter],” he remarked.

An increase in insurance appraisals for the board’s schools, plus about a $105,000 revision for operations and plant in the Atikokan school, accounted for some of the deficit.

But trustee Dean McLean put a fair amount of blame on the provincial government, which was several months late in providing the school board with its funding.

“I kind of get the feeling this was done by design by the provincial government,” he said, noting past boards normally dealt with the budget in March and April. “They didn’t give us the opportunity to budget earlier.”

McLeod said the board could try to cut money in the middle of the school year but he noted doing so would be extremely hard and, in many cases, not possible to do.

The best option will be to wait until the next school year to implement the cuts, he said.

“There are some areas you will have to look at over the next four months in preparation for next year’s budget,” he McLeod warned.

Also at last night’s board meeting:

•trustee Dennis Brunn was acclaimed to the position of board chair while Judy Eluik remained as the board’s vice-chair by acclamation;

•the board agreed to take the next step in installing a wheelchair left at Robert Moore School here after receiving an initial estimate of about $170,000 (the money will come from the facilities renewal budget);

•trustee Gord McBride informed the board the policy committee was almost finished reviewing Section One of the two predecessor boards’ policies and should have a proposed Section One policy for the new board to send out for approval soon;

•the following personnel had their positions ratified by the board:

—Marcy Harper (full-time classroom assistant)

—Kathleen Matheson (half-time special education assistant)

—Garet Frenette (full-time special education assistant)

—Wes Humanism (network technology specialist)

—Pam Van Heyst (full-time special education assistant)

—Brigette Schulzki (full-time special education assistant)

—Linda Ridsdale (full-time special education assistant)

—Cheri Whatley (half-time special education assistant)

—Donna Kilmister (accounting clerk)

—Pegeen Keffer (half-time teacher)

—Shauna Anness (casual CUPE secretary)

—Karen Wright (half-time teacher)

—Valerie Carrier (school secretary)

—Eleanor Wiersema (special education assistant);

•trustees accepted the resignation of Jody Miller Bonner-Vickers as a special education assistant at Fort Frances High School (she has since taken a job as a French teacher at Riverview School in Rainy River); and

•trustees approved Policy #8.20 re travelling expenses.

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