School board votes to retain trustees

School District #83 trustees have voted to keep all nine trustees on the board of education.

School District #83 trustees have voted to keep all nine trustees on the board of education.

The board made its unanimous decision at a special public meeting held on Monday night, June 23.

They looked at trustee reductions in response to budget cuts the district was facing; however, the board concluded there wasn’t enough time for consultation on the proposal to reduce the number of trustees from nine to seven.

“I think we’re just rushing it a little bit,” said Bob Fowler, Armstrong/Spallumcheen trustee. “If we do it right then we should take the time to do it right.”

Enderby trustee Chris Coers said there hasn’t been enough consultation with the public.

“Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer have had no opportunity to tell us what they think,” said Coers.

The board also sent out letters seeking input from municipal councils, regional boards and special interest groups in the area, but received responses from about half.

The board presented two options for an overall reduction of two trustees.

One was to combine the Enderby and Sicamous regions (one less trustee), as well as the Carlin/Sorrento area with the North Shuswap (one less trustee). Then Armstrong/Spallumcheen would be combined with Falkland/Deep Creek/Ranchero (one less trustee) and Salmon Arm would get three trustees instead of two.

The second option was to combine Carlin/Sorrento with North Shuswap (one less trustee) and remove one trustee from the Armstrong/Spallumcheen area (which now has two).

By cutting two trustees, the district would save approximately $25,000 a year. But trustees discussed whether the saving would be worth it.

Rhona Martin, Columbia Shuswap Regional District director, expressed her concerns.

“I know you are undergoing pressures, but I think the cost of a local trustee having a voice at the table is valuable,” said Martin. “I think it’s an expense that’s well worth it.”

Martin also noted the reduction of trustees could save money, but the money might still be spent on travel expenses if trustees had to cover a larger area.

Coers also mentioned that if trustees were having to travel farther to cover their specific areas, they might not be able to keep up with their original communities.

Concern was also brought up about rural communities losing their voice if trustees were lost.

“We can’t lose any more trustees in Sicamous,” said Suzanne Carpenter, a Sicamous councillor. “It would be a crime if we lost that voice.”