Minister Fassbender says he heard the board loud and clear on the point, and has committed to continue working with it to come to a suitable outcome.
“The challenge, of course, that we have as a provincial government is we are committed to a balanced budget, so we look at all of the various ministries and the funding within them and within the school… but we clearly heard the board today,” he says. “Our ministry’s going to work with them.”
Earlier this year, the suggested cost per family would be $200 each for the first two children, and $500 for a family of three children or more. Based on last year’s ridership, those fees would bring in $406,000, which means the School District would still be looking to make almost an additional $300,000 to meet the $700,000 needed to balance the budget.
Following their meeting, Fassbender says the school district would be contacted by a technical review committee that has been charged with looking into the challenges each district around the province faces.
“We’re going to take a really hard look at it,” he maintains. “I have a much better understanding myself, personally, as of today, and then I think once recommendations come out of that, then decisions will either be made by the government or by the school district, or the combination of the two of us.”
It’s clear that the Ministry feels there is no more money to be given out at this point, so the challenge is to take another look at how funds are already being used. That will likely be difficult, as the school district recently had to find the funds from within its existing budget for a mandated 3.5 per cent wage increase for school support workers.
MLA Pimm campaigned for re-election on the promise that local students would not have to pay for transportation, but with only two months until they return from winter holidays, that guarantee seems less likely to be met as each day goes by. Bringing Fassbender up to the region is just one of the things he says he’s doing to help remedy the situation.
“One of the things that I’m quite adamant about doing is checking to see what other regions around the province actually have initiated charges for different students, and on transportation issues, and I think that’s some of the stuff that the review may bring up as well,” he says. “Certainly if there’s any way possible, we don’t want a third of our kids having to pay for bussing. It seems a little outrageous to me, but that’s what the review is going to look at.”
Fassbender says he expects to have discussions between the school district and the technical review committee to begin shortly.
“So to the parents, I’d say, ‘stay tuned,’ because we have to have those discussions. We’ve got to go through that before we have any outcomes.”