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Richmond MLAs listening, but not hearing: School trustee

Donna Sargent not encouraged after meeting John Yap and Linda Reid to express fears over more education cuts
Richmond School Board trustees and district staff, pictured last month with Richmond MLAs Linda Reid, fourth from left, and John Yap, fourth from right, are mulling proposals for how to find government-enforced $1 million in cuts to administration costs.

“We felt like we were being listened to, but didn’t get a lot of answers.”

Trustee Donna Sargent lamented the lack of feedback received from local MLAs John Yap and Linda Reid after the pair of politicians met with the Richmond Board of Education earlier this week.

Former school board chair Sargent and her fellow trustees had a face-to-face with Yap and Reid to voice their trepidation at having to find $1 million worth of B.C. government-ordered, administration cuts to an already threadbare budget.

However, all the MLAs could offer the board was a potential meeting with B.C.’s Finance Minister Mike de Jong to further plead their case.

“I think we got across the severity of this latest round of cuts,” said Sargent.

“We also expressed how we felt disrespected being told where we had to make the cuts. They said they would talk to the minister and see if he could come to Richmond to meet us. Personally, I had hoped for more than that.”

The school board is actually in the process of compiling a full list of the cuts it has had to make over the last ten years — a preview of which was shown to Yap and Reid.

“(The cuts) just keep tearing away and tearing away; it’s going to fall apart at some point, it has to,” said Sargent of the school system in Richmond.

“The cuts themselves don’t make sense when administration is such a small part of our budget (around 2.9 per cent).

“There are other places we could go to (with the cuts) that would tie in with our goals.”

Sargent said the board has already written to de Jong’s office and received no response thus far.

“This is all short-term gain; but it’s going to start showing up soon.”

The district is looking at an estimated budget shortfall of $4 million for the next school year, a quarter of which is being forced upon it by the Ministry of Education, as part of Richmond’s share of the $29 million in non-teaching, administrative cuts it requires from school districts across B.C.

The rest of the reduction in funding is expected due to a projected decline in enrolment of around 500 students for this coming school year — accounting for $2.5 million — and another $500,000 for inflationary hikes for costs outside the district’s control, such as a six per cent increase in BC Hydro rates, and higher MSP costs for employees.

Yap told the News he “understands it’s a challenging process” for the school board to “find these savings.”

Asked what he thought of Sargent’s comments that the education system in Richmond is ready to fall apart, Yap said, “(the) Richmond School District, over the years, has done a solid job in making tough decisions.”

Admitting he had seen the board’s ten-year list of cuts to their budget, Yap added, “I have confidence in their leadership. They’ve been able to continually deliver a high standard of education and I expect that to continue.”


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