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School district budget warrants closer look

School board will need to be increasingly transparent in terms of releasing information to fully engage the community.

Both provincial government and local school boards play a different, but vital financial role in public education. One holds the purse strings while the other allocates the funds. Taxpayers and voters need to keep both bodies accountable in regards to disbursal and spending of public money.

Consider the following example that illustrates the value of looking closely at the allocation of funds, versus simply demanding more:

You bring home a modest paycheque. You decide to feed your family lobster every night, and send the children to school in rags. After negative feedback from concerned neighbours, you demand more money from your employer, telling them the children are dressed in rags. You get a raise, but still decide to feed your family lobster every night, and your children are still wearing rags to school. Nothing has been accomplished.

Surely our school district could use more funding, but the public should also take an interest in how it’s being spent. Just days before the 2014/15 proposed budget was voted on, the school district released a 12-page document highlighting proposed cuts for public review and comment. This was the first time a document like this has been released in advance of the voting. To me, that is shocking

At this budget meeting, trustees asked those fighting against the cuts for their ideas on ways to save. No one could answer with confidence.  Why not? Because there was no detailed budget released from which anyone could draw insightful analysis or comment.

Though the step to release the proposed budget cuts is a promising one, the school board will need to be increasingly more transparent in terms of releasing information if they are to more fully engage the community in the allocation process.

Jennifer Henrie