Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavut June 13, 2014 - 8:56 am

New Nunavut high school rocked by huge budget cuts

MLA Allan Rumbolt suspects new attendance system, or clerical error

Hudson Bay MLA Allan Rumbolt wants to know why the new high school in his community had its budget cut this year by nearly 40 per cent. (PHOTO BY DAVID MURPHY)
Hudson Bay MLA Allan Rumbolt wants to know why the new high school in his community had its budget cut this year by nearly 40 per cent. (PHOTO BY DAVID MURPHY)

Three short years after the grand opening of Sanikiluaq’s new high school, it appears that without warning, its budget has been slashed by nearly 40 per cent.

Hudson Bay MLA Allan Rumbolt told his colleagues in the legislature June 12 that he recently heard the news from Paatsaali high school principal Tim Hoyt.

Last year the school had a budget of about $184,000, but this year it’s been cut by approximately $72,000.

“I think it could have an affect on the education of the kids for sure,” Rumbolt told Nunatsiaq News.

Rumbolt wasn’t sure whether the budget shrinkage would affect classroom instruction, but he said some programs might be cut. 

He suspects a new attendance tracking system called Maplewood, installed in all schools in Nunavut last September, has something to do with the budget cut. 

The new “student information system” records all attendance records on one database in all of Nunavut’s 43 schools.

Rumbolt said school budgets are based on how many students attend the school.

“My understanding is that they go with the attendance that they usually have in September and they base their budget on that,” Rumbolt said. “With the new system, I’m not quite sure how it works.”

It’s just speculation, however. Rumbolt admitted he doesn’t know what’s causing the funding shortfall and even suggested it could be a clerical error

Nunatsiaq News was unable to clarify the matter.

Principal Hoyt refused to comment, referring Nunatsiaq News to the Department of Education. A spokesperson for education did not contact Nunatsiaq News by day’s end June 12.

Rumbolt questioned education minister Paul Quassa about the decrease in funds at the legislative assembly June 12.

Quassa said he had just recently received a letter from the school inquiring about the budget.

“I just got that yesterday and my department is looking into what the status is on that,” Quassa said.

Quassa also reiterated that education is at the top of the list in the Government of Nunavut’s agenda.

“As this house knows, education is our priority,” Quassa said, adding there were no decreases in any his departmental budgets.

The budgets for each individual school, however, don’t appear in the GN’s main estimates, which the assembly just passed June 12.

As for the new attendance system, Quassa didn’t have an answer for Rumbolt on whether it affected the school’s budget it any way.

He could only say the new student information system captures attendance, performance, and behavioural data from kindergarten to Grade 12.

The system cost the territory approximately $220,500, Quassa said.

But the whole issue has Rumbolt concerned. He wonders if other schools in the territory might have seen their budgets shrink as well.

“It just seems interesting they’re putting education as a priority and then all of a sudden they’re going to cut budgets in the communities. So it’s kind of going against what you’re trying to do,” Rumbolt said after question period. 

“Are other schools going to suffer the same fate?”

To make matters worse, Rumbolt said Paatsaali school has probably already spent a good portion of their budget ordering supplies on sealift, basing their purchases on the previous year’s budget.

But “if they’ve already spent money they don’t have, maybe they have to go into a deficit recovery. Which means even more cuts to save the amount of money they need.”

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