Former trustee disagrees with article

Urges the restoration of an elected school board in North Okanagan-Shuswap district.

The article, Parents reject call for early trustee election, Shuswap Market News, Aug. 25, contains a couple of incorrect and misleading claims.

First, taxpayers would not save $150,000; the budget for board elections here is more like $25,000.

Also, the article suggests that program spending was cut in order to transfer money to construct an administrative building. This is not true.

By law, all school districts run operating surpluses every year (they can’t borrow money and breaking even is basically impossible).

The norm for all districts in B.C. is to put the previous year’s operating surplus into their capital account (putting the surplus back into the operating budget would create a structural deficit). SD 83 was audited by the province for five years and neither the size of the operating surpluses nor the practice of moving operating surplus into capital was ever questioned by the auditors.

Citizens had a chance to respond to the plan to build the board office (as opposed to pursuing other capital projects) in the 2014 election. Instead the result was a vote of confidence, as four trustees were acclaimed and three were re-elected.

While I, as one of the trustees, was negligent in my understanding of budget details, trustees were not fired because anything was done improperly when it came to building the board office.

We were fired because we were deemed to be dysfunctional. But as I said then, and still maintain now, the cause of dysfunction was severe underfunding by the province.

It is no coincidence that the very day we were fired the province came up with new money for rural schools, then more money for transportation, and with the BCTF victory, finally a substantial amount of funding has been restored.

During the years the district faced both severe underfunding and enrolment decline, trustees had to make very difficult decisions – impossible decisions really – but decisions which are rightly made by elected officials who are accountable to the citizens who elected them.

An elected board should be restored immediately so that decisions with lasting implications to students and parents are made by people who are accountable through the proper democratic process.

Larissa Lutjen

Trustee for North Shuswap from 2014-2016