Education minister says no to Hay River
Northern News Services
On March 23, Education Minister Charles Dent rejected a petition from the Hay River District Education Authority (DEA) for a new funding arrangement in the South Slave.
The plan would have seen the DEA become autonomous from the regional school board - the Fort Smith-based South Slave Divisional Education Council (SSDEC). Hay Rivers share of regional education funding would have all gone to the DEA.
In a letter to the DEA, Dent wrote, The changes proposed in your petition would create an anomaly in the system that could serve as a precedent for the formation of stand-alone education bodies without the obligation to raise additional tax revenues from the community.
DEA chair David MacDonald says the board is greatly disappointed by the ministers decision. In fact, MacDonald is considering resigning as chair over the issue.
Meanwhile, SSDEC chair Anne Pischinger is pleased.
I think the ministers response is in the best interest of all South Slave students, Pischinger says.
The Hay River DEA has wanted out of the SSDEC for many years, citing numerous differences in such areas as allocation of funding among communities and spending priorities.
This is the second time in five years the DEA has unsuccessfully petitioned for more power.
The DEA submitted its petition to Dent in October.
They argued that the plan would not mean any extra GNWT money for South Slave education. Instead, all of Hay Rivers share of the SSDECs almost $19-million budget would be passed along to the DEA. That would mean an approximately $1-million increase for the community to about $7.1 million.
With the extra $1 million, which currently helps run the SSDEC regional office, the DEA would hire its own superintendent and consultants, while technically remaining part of the SSDEC.
However, Dent said there are only two types of education funding in the NWT -- the divisional education council model and the Yellowknife model, in which district education authorities raise additional revenues through local taxation.
The minister said the department is not prepared to change the models, since it would create a dangerous precedent other communities might want to follow, and one we cant fiscally afford.
Dent said an extra $1 million for Hay River would mean a loss of money to the SSDEC and negatively affect other schools and services in the region.
Thats money coming from somewhere, he says.
In a consultation process, he found opposition to the Hay River petition from the regions other DEAs, aboriginal organizations and municipal councils. The Hay River town council supports the DEA plan only if there is no increase in local taxation.
Dent said the Hay River DEA could consider the Yellowknife model of increased local taxation.
If theres an interest in the community, we could certainly work that out, he said.
However, MacDonald said the Hay River DEA wont be doing that.
We never intended to even consider that as a possibility.
MacDonald said Hay River doesnt have the population base to raise over an extra $1 million in school tax.
We wouldnt have a chance of getting public support, he said.
In Hay River, about $460,000 is currently raised in school tax, which is collected as part of property taxes and submitted to the GNWT.