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Tax hike necessary evil, says school board chair
YCS and Yk1 to propose slight education mill rate increase

Myles Dolphin
Northern News Services
Published Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Both Yellowknife school boards will present a motion to increase the education mill rate at their upcoming board meetings.

NNSL photo/graphic

Yellowknife Catholic Schools board chair Simon Taylor, left and Yk1 school board chair Allan Shortt both agree that a slight education mill rate increase is necessary. - Myles Dolphin/NNSL photo

The increase would bump the rate from the current 4.64 to the proposed 4.87.

A special meeting was held at the Yellowknife Catholic Schools (YCS) Board office on Thursday, May 9 to announce the notice of information and to explain the rationale behind the desired increase.

The motion will be presented at Yk1's board meeting on Tuesday, May 14 and at YCS' meeting on May 15.

YCS Board chair Simon Taylor said the increase is a necessary evil.

"We have preferred not to raise the rate because it's essentially a tax raise," he said.

"We are working as best we can to try and not require that but the difficulty we're facing is the fluctuation in enrollment."

The City collects school taxes on behalf of the school boards, but does not administer or control school taxes, according to the city of Yellowknife website.

Taylor said GNWT funding to the schools, which stands at 75 per cent of their total funding, is tied to the number of students attending Yellowknife schools in any given year. Because of Yellowknife's transitory population, a slight decline in students does not equate to the loss of a classroom: the costs related to heating and power remain the same and schools have to make do.

"We're not really in a position to shut down classes," Taylor said.

"We have the same number of classes and teachers. Our district alone has lost the funding equivalent of five teachers, and we're not in a position to get rid of five teachers."

Board members present at YCS' meeting agreed they weren't in a position to make any more cuts, as they would seriously impact the quality of education in the district.

Yk1 board chair Allan Shortt said his school board was sympathetic to YCS' issues.

"We have the same problems," he said, referring to fluctuating enrollment in Yellowknife.

"Say we have a low turnout in our kindergarten classes one year: those low numbers go through the entire system year after year and we're funded a year backwards (based on the numbers from the previous year)."

"We're still going to teach if we have 12 or 23 students in a classroom, and we still have the same costs for heating and power."

Shortt said the funding from the education mill rate goes directly into the classroom to improve the quality of education, but Yk1's current budget has been at a deficit for the past two years. Special needs education and technology are two areas that have taken particularly large hits.

"We spend $700,000 on technology last year and the Department of Education, Culture and Employment funds us nothing for that," he said.

"Last year we had to cut $92,000 for special needs education. We want to make sure Yellowknife students are well-equipped to be successful in life."

From 1996 to 2003, the education mill rate was 6.06 in Yellowknife. The current education mill rate in Hay River is 2.41 and 4.62 in Normal Wells, according to the GNWT Department of Finance website.

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