Hamilton school trustees give $525M budget easy ride

News May 28, 2015 by Richard Leitner Hamilton Mountain News

In his inaugural year as a trustee, Todd White caused a stir by casting the lone vote against the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board’s budget, protesting the mere week allotted to absorb and approve crucial spending decisions.

Four years later as board chair, he watched on Monday as this year’s $525.6-million budget breezed through a presentation to trustees — seven of them rookies — without a single objection despite an overall cut of nearly $1.5 million from last year.

White credits a new budget process that includes early public consultation on key priorities and allows trustees to review spending areas in bite-sized portions at finance and facilities committee meetings.

It’s allowed them to probe much deeper than four years ago, when he was presented a two-page summary and told the budget had to be approved the following week to meet the deadline for submitting it to the province, he said.

“Because we have lived each portion of that budget, there are no surprises at this level,” White said. “We’ve already asked the tough questions, we’ve had the tough votes.”

The balanced budget’s lower spending partly reflects the impact of school closures and a projected enrolment drop of 328 students next fall.

The board is also losing about $2 million in grants used to keep emptier schools open, part of Queen’s Park’s broader push to encourage closures.

In a similar vein, the province is phasing out funding for principals at schools with fewer than 150 students, affecting three elementary schools and Mountain Secondary School.

However, other grant changes will boost spending on special education by $1.4 million and cover more than half of next year’s $1.3-million budget for expanding the board’s rollout of iPads to grades 4 and 5, dubbed Transforming Learning Everywhere.

West Mountain trustee Wes Hicks, chair of finance and facilities committee, said he’s pleased that despite some cuts the budget maintains or increases spending on the board’s six priorities.

These include improving math, the new high-school program strategy, school revitalization, special education, student supports and the iPad project.

“We went out to the public and they said we were on track with those six priorities, and the budget reflects that,” Hicks said.

New trustees praised Hicks’s committee and budget staff for their work.

“You have made it painless,” Flamborough trustee Penny Deathe said.

“Being a new trustee, you certainly make it very easy to understand. I’m not a finance guy by any means and you invited us to meetings throughout the process and explained everything,” Ward 3 trustee Larry Pattison said.

“It makes it easy for us at this stage to trust the process.”

Trustees are scheduled to give the budget one more review on June 8 before approving it on June 15.

Hamilton school trustees give $525M budget easy ride

Chair credits more consultative process

News May 28, 2015 by Richard Leitner Hamilton Mountain News

In his inaugural year as a trustee, Todd White caused a stir by casting the lone vote against the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board’s budget, protesting the mere week allotted to absorb and approve crucial spending decisions.

Four years later as board chair, he watched on Monday as this year’s $525.6-million budget breezed through a presentation to trustees — seven of them rookies — without a single objection despite an overall cut of nearly $1.5 million from last year.

White credits a new budget process that includes early public consultation on key priorities and allows trustees to review spending areas in bite-sized portions at finance and facilities committee meetings.

It’s allowed them to probe much deeper than four years ago, when he was presented a two-page summary and told the budget had to be approved the following week to meet the deadline for submitting it to the province, he said.

“We’ve already asked the tough questions, we’ve had the tough votes.”

“Because we have lived each portion of that budget, there are no surprises at this level,” White said. “We’ve already asked the tough questions, we’ve had the tough votes.”

The balanced budget’s lower spending partly reflects the impact of school closures and a projected enrolment drop of 328 students next fall.

The board is also losing about $2 million in grants used to keep emptier schools open, part of Queen’s Park’s broader push to encourage closures.

In a similar vein, the province is phasing out funding for principals at schools with fewer than 150 students, affecting three elementary schools and Mountain Secondary School.

However, other grant changes will boost spending on special education by $1.4 million and cover more than half of next year’s $1.3-million budget for expanding the board’s rollout of iPads to grades 4 and 5, dubbed Transforming Learning Everywhere.

West Mountain trustee Wes Hicks, chair of finance and facilities committee, said he’s pleased that despite some cuts the budget maintains or increases spending on the board’s six priorities.

These include improving math, the new high-school program strategy, school revitalization, special education, student supports and the iPad project.

“We went out to the public and they said we were on track with those six priorities, and the budget reflects that,” Hicks said.

New trustees praised Hicks’s committee and budget staff for their work.

“You have made it painless,” Flamborough trustee Penny Deathe said.

“Being a new trustee, you certainly make it very easy to understand. I’m not a finance guy by any means and you invited us to meetings throughout the process and explained everything,” Ward 3 trustee Larry Pattison said.

“It makes it easy for us at this stage to trust the process.”

Trustees are scheduled to give the budget one more review on June 8 before approving it on June 15.

Hamilton school trustees give $525M budget easy ride

Chair credits more consultative process

News May 28, 2015 by Richard Leitner Hamilton Mountain News

In his inaugural year as a trustee, Todd White caused a stir by casting the lone vote against the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board’s budget, protesting the mere week allotted to absorb and approve crucial spending decisions.

Four years later as board chair, he watched on Monday as this year’s $525.6-million budget breezed through a presentation to trustees — seven of them rookies — without a single objection despite an overall cut of nearly $1.5 million from last year.

White credits a new budget process that includes early public consultation on key priorities and allows trustees to review spending areas in bite-sized portions at finance and facilities committee meetings.

It’s allowed them to probe much deeper than four years ago, when he was presented a two-page summary and told the budget had to be approved the following week to meet the deadline for submitting it to the province, he said.

“We’ve already asked the tough questions, we’ve had the tough votes.”

“Because we have lived each portion of that budget, there are no surprises at this level,” White said. “We’ve already asked the tough questions, we’ve had the tough votes.”

The balanced budget’s lower spending partly reflects the impact of school closures and a projected enrolment drop of 328 students next fall.

The board is also losing about $2 million in grants used to keep emptier schools open, part of Queen’s Park’s broader push to encourage closures.

In a similar vein, the province is phasing out funding for principals at schools with fewer than 150 students, affecting three elementary schools and Mountain Secondary School.

However, other grant changes will boost spending on special education by $1.4 million and cover more than half of next year’s $1.3-million budget for expanding the board’s rollout of iPads to grades 4 and 5, dubbed Transforming Learning Everywhere.

West Mountain trustee Wes Hicks, chair of finance and facilities committee, said he’s pleased that despite some cuts the budget maintains or increases spending on the board’s six priorities.

These include improving math, the new high-school program strategy, school revitalization, special education, student supports and the iPad project.

“We went out to the public and they said we were on track with those six priorities, and the budget reflects that,” Hicks said.

New trustees praised Hicks’s committee and budget staff for their work.

“You have made it painless,” Flamborough trustee Penny Deathe said.

“Being a new trustee, you certainly make it very easy to understand. I’m not a finance guy by any means and you invited us to meetings throughout the process and explained everything,” Ward 3 trustee Larry Pattison said.

“It makes it easy for us at this stage to trust the process.”

Trustees are scheduled to give the budget one more review on June 8 before approving it on June 15.