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School board moves closer to the black

Yellowknife No.1 budget stakes out the middle ground

Mike W. Bryant
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Apr 05/02) - The public school board is closer to the black and wants to keep it that way.

Yellowknife Education District No.1 held its first round of public consultations regarding the board's proposed budget Tuesday night in a meeting with local parent advisory group members.

"It's a status quo budget for all intents and purposes," said finance chair Maureen Miller when asked where the board was heading with this year's budget.

Miller said the board felt the best approach for the time being was to stay the course and work on reducing its deficit.

The atmosphere was considerably less hostile compared to last year when the board unveiled a $1.2- million deficit in its initial budget draft, forcing them to later cut staff and slash programs.

The accumulated deficit has now dropped to $247,000, thanks in part to government fuel rebates and increasing enrolment rates.

Satisfied there would be no substantial job or program cuts at Yellowknife No.1 this year, PAG members directed their fire at the territorial government instead.

The big question on everyone's minds was what could be done to reduce pupil-teacher ratios at the schools.

"We have to continue lobbying the minister (Education, Culture, Employment minister Jake Ootes)," said Range Lake North PAG member Susan Craig. "I don't think education is anything to take for granted. I didn't hear anyone say that it (pupil/teacher ratios) was at 16.5."

The PTR is legislated to 16.5 pupils per teacher, but Yellowknife No.1 will only receive funding for 17.5 this year.

Miller said, short of raising mill rates among city ratepayers, there is little the board can do generate more funding to hire teachers.

Trustee Terry Brookes said if Yellowknife No.1 raised mill rates then ratepayers may jump ship and put their money with Yellowknife Catholic Schools instead.

Under an agreement with the city ratepayers have the option of which school district they wish to fund.

"It's the way the minister interprets it (PTR funding)," said Miller. "Right now there isn't anything else."

The board suggested, instead, that parents should continue lobbying the minister to increase PTR funding.

"If you go from a multi-pointed attack, you're usually a lot more successful," said Brookes.

The PAG representatives, no strangers to lobbying the GNWT for more education funding, said they plan to hold an open house sometime in May.

Jake Ootes is invited.