The school board says cuts in the classroom may be in store next year unless the province ponies up more cash.
The Halifax regional school board held a special meeting yesterday to discuss implications if the recently tabled provincial budget passes.
“We’re certainly looking at tough choices,” said Richard Morris, the board’s director of financial services. “If I was a parent, I would be concerned about programs and services that may be affected.”
Morris said the board’s estimated funding levels are not enough to cover current programming in schools. An estimated 4.2 per cent provincial increase would only cover rising staff salaries and benefits, he said. Last year, the board received about $350 million from the province.
Adding to the pressure is a lack of provision in the budget for the soaring costs of oil. Morris said the board expects to pay an additional $2.4 million for heat next year.
The Education Minister Karen Casey said the board will have to work within the dollars the province provides.
“We’re not suggesting and we will not accept any reductions in services,” Casey said. “If they’re finding the funding is not adequate, then we want them to look inside at some of their own operational costs.”
Morris said the current funding formula used by the province also short-changes Halifax students.
The board currently receives $6,523 per student in funding — that’s 9.2 per cent less than the provincial average of $7,185.
Strait regional school board receives $2,000 more in per student funding than Halifax.
Casey said all school boards were involved in a 2005 decision about the per pupil funding formula, but admitted it may be time to review it.
“The concerns for Halifax will certainly be given serious consideration and that may cause us to look at: ‘Is the implementation of this fair or do we need to go back and revisit it?’”