Review offers thoughtful analysis

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Anyone expecting yesterday's government review of the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board's 2012-13 budget to take the form of a sharply worded lecture followed by some clear marching orders must have been disappointed. Or relieved.

No, the review was never about determining or setting the CCRSB budget.

Instead, it was about providing observations rather than recommendations. At least that's what senior treasurer board adviser Doug Stewart would have us believe.

In a detailed presentation made at the Nova Scotia Community College - Truro Campus, Stewart provided background regarding school board funding, listed the major decisions the board made as part of its planned reductions (the most notable being the elimination of all library services) and he itemized reductions which were considered but which the board chose not to implement.

Stewart commented on the board's budgeting process and he offered budget reduction alternatives totalling $1.63 million, all of which made perfect sense upon reading the explanations.

But eventually the recommendations came. They had to and, in a nutshell, stated:

• the board should continue to offer library services at a reasonable level and in line with other boards

• maintain reasonable class sizes in line with the provincial average

• find additional reductions in administration

• follow the minister's instructions to find savings through attrition, which would protect more jobs

• take steps to reflect the reality of declining enrolment

We believe this review was a very positive exercise and we support the implementation of all of its recommendations. The review also acknowledged that adult high schools, which will be cut at the end of this semester, are outside the board's core mandate, a stance we agree with. School boards budgets have continued to climb in recent years despite declining enrolment and it makes perfect sense to us when the government, regardless of its affiliation, says this can't continue. Not when the province is carrying a $13-billion overall debt.

So now the ball is back in the CCRSB's court and, though no order was issued, we wouldn't be surprised if all or most of the recommendations are adopted when the budget comes out in June.

Organizations: Nova Scotia Community College, Central Regional School Board

Geographic location: Chignecto

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