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Regional Council, School Board to Make the Decisions
(Friday, October 27/2000)-The Superintendent of the Halifax Regional School Board and a local education advocacy group were cautioned today not to be speculating publicly about how and where Supplementary Education Funding will be spent-before Regional Council and members of the School Board have made those decisions.
Councillor Ron Cooper (District 4-Cole Harbour North/Cherry Brook) was commenting on remarks attributed by the media yesterday to David Reid, Superintendent of Schools, and Dick Tilley, spokesperson for the Public Action Group for Education.
Mr. Tilley speculated that Supplementary Education Funding will be distributed, based on school enrolment; and therefore, funds now spent in Halifax and Dartmouth schools would be transferred to schools in Bedford and the former Halifax County when the program is expanded.
He said that because HRM's tax base is in Halifax and Dartmouth, and most of the students are in Bedford and the former County areas, "it's probably the biggest tax (windfall)" in the history of Halifax County.
However, Mr. Reid stated that programs considered valuable in the Halifax and Dartmouth schools would not be in jeopardy; and it would be wrong to conclude the funding would be distributed based on enrolment.
Councillor Cooper said it was premature for anyone to speculate on how, where and when existing funding, or any new monies raised by expanding the school tax levy to include property owners in Bedford and the former County of Halifax, will be spent.
"I don't think that it is appropriate for these individuals, particularly Mr. Reid, to be cutting up the Supplementary Education pie before Council and members of the School Board have had an opportunity to discuss the issue and decide on a course of action, " he said.
Councillor Cooper said that based on Mr. Reid's comments, the end result would mean either a tremendous tax increase in Bedford and the former County areas, or continued disparity in education in the current school system.
"The whole purpose of this exercise is to ensure a reasonable school levy rate for all taxpayers, and to eliminate the two levels of education that now exist in the municipality.
Mr. Reid and others should keep in mind that we are no longer Halifax, Dartmouth, Bedford and the County-we are one municipality and there should be equity and fairness for everyone, " he said.
HRM residents voted 53 per cent in favour of paying an additional tax levy for Supplementary Education Funding in last Saturday's non-binding plebiscite. Ratepayers in Halifax-Dartmouth have traditionally paid for additional school funding and are currently providing an additional $17 million to schools in their areas.
The former Town of Bedford and County of Halifax do not have Supplementary Education Funding. However, Regional Council approved a one-time only school levy in those areas this year to raise an additional $2.3 million to make up for School Board budget cuts.
HRM paid $60 million to the Province of Nova Scotia this year for core education funding. In addition, taxpayers in Halifax paid an extra 13.1 cents per $100 of assessment to raise $12 million for Supplementary Education Funding; while Dartmouth ratepayers paid an additional 10.4 cents per $100 of assessment to raise an additional $5 million.
The one-time levy this year in Bedford and the former County of Halifax was 3.5 cents per $100 of assessment.
Supplementary Education Funding is used to reduce class sizes; provide extra staff for special-education students and to enhance programs, such as music, art and Core French.
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Councillor Ron Cooper
cell (902) 488-4804
res. (902) 462-4887