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Greater Victoria school budget passes with roughly $6M worth of cuts

Reductions will be made to some music programs as well as counselling, learning support staff
SD 61 has passed the 2024-2025 budget, but that is less than what is need and cuts are being made. (Black Press Media file photo)

The Greater Victoria School District’s board has passed a $318 million budget that will include roughly $6 million worth of cuts.

This means reduced programming and potentially some layoffs.

“I do not approve of a budget that is forcing cuts into services and programs for students,” said Trustee Derek Gagnon at the Thursday (April 11) night special board meeting as he justified his vote against the budget.

“I do not approve of a budget that is forced upon by a funding model from the provincial government that is woefully inadequate,” he said.

The head of the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association agreed, with association president Ilda Turcotte calling the province’s funding of the district “shameful” in an interview on Thursday morning.

“I just want to repeat and restate our concerns with the impacts the cuts will have to student services,” Turcotte said at the board meeting.

The budget cuts funding for the full-time equivalent of 1.6 learning-support teachers and 0.4 counsellors. Though this does not sound like a lot, Turcotte said it could mean laying off several part-time learning support teachers.

The board also passed a hiring freeze for non-school-based staff.

In addition, there will be a reduction in the long-standing elementary strings violin program, with it ending at more than 10 schools and moving to a hub model where students travel to participate at one of 14 schools to retain the program.

Trustee Emily Mahbobi said music programs are one of the reasons she wanted to be involved with the school board, and expressed how painful the cuts are for her.

“It really breaks my heart to approve a budget with these cuts,” she said.

Turcotte and many of the trustees put the blame squarely on the provincial government, which provides much of the district’s funding.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Education and Child Care said in a written statement on Thursday that the district’s funding has been boosted by $80 million since 2016, and continues to added to steadily, but it is up to the school board how that money is spent.

“Operating funding goes directly to boards of education, and school districts and their elected boards decide how best to allocate this funding to meet the needs of students across the school district,” says the statement.

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About the Author: Mark Page

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