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A final deal between the BC Teachers' Federation and BC government to restore class size and composition is expected to be signed next week.

BCTF President Glen Hansman says both parties will meet three times next week.

"We've been estimating just based on what was taken out of the system, about $300 million dollars more per year, and while the province hasn't included a full dollar amount in the K-12 budget, does have a sizable cushion in the contingency fund."

In January, a $50-million dollar interim deal was reached to begin the process and hire 1100 teachers.

Earlier this week, Finance Minister Mike de Jong announced $320-million over three years to cover the province's obligation to the teachers union, but said that money from the BC Budget was a 'placeholder'.

This all stems from a Supreme Court of Canada ruling that sided with teachers who lost collective bargaining rights back in 2002.

Lower Nicola Indian Band voting whether to accept a proposed mutual benefit agreement from Kinder Morgan.

None of the five bands in the Nicola Valley have signed mutual benefit agreements with Kinder Morgan to date, but Chief Aaron Sam says there is a chance that could change this weekend.

"I do believe it's going to be close. I've encouraged all our community members to vote, because we certainly want to be heard."

Online, and telephone voting began yesterday, and Chief Aaron Sam says band members will be casting physical ballots tomorrow at the Shulus Hall from 9am to 8pm.

"A yes vote will ratify the agreement we have signed with Kinder Morgan, and a no vote will mean we'll have to sit down as a council again and figure out our next steps."

The mutual benefit agreement the Lower Nicola Indian Band is considering contains financial compensation over the life of the agreement and would see improvements made to the band's fire hall, and both a bridge built over Juliette Creek, and a power line over the band's territory, which would be transferred to the band once completed.

City of Merritt holding an all-day budget deliberation meeting tomorrow.

Director of finance Sheila Theissen is hopeful to have a better idea of where the tax rate will be set, and what capital projects will be approved in the 2017 budget following the meeting.

"The draft budget contains a zero-tax increase, just with the extra taxes collected due to the increase in assessments this year. Council will be looking at their operating at both the operating and capital lists, and once they are narrowed down, we will have a better idea of the tax rate."

Ultimately, Thiessen says the tax rate will be decided by Mayor and Council, but does say if they decide to go with the 2% increase identified in the current five-year financial plan, it will translate increase of $25 for the average Merritt rate payer.

 

BC Children's Hospital set to benefit again from the Merritt RCMP's BC Law Enforcement Charity Hockey Challenge.

The tournament featuring eight teams made up of RCMP officers, firefighters and conservation officers from as far as Prince George gets started today at the Nicola Valley Memorial area, and goes through the weekend.

More $30,000 has been raised for BC Children's Hospital though the event in it's first three years, which Merritt RCMP Cst Brodie Ferris can attest to being money well spent, after his daughter was forced to spend the first six months of her life at the hospital due to complications with her heart.

"My wife and our family certainly have a personal connection. There are also a lot of others in the tournament with a connection. It's one of those things where everybody knows someone that has benefitted form the hospital in one way or another, so it's certainly a worthy cause."

The game schedule, and a list of silent auction items can be viewed on the 'BC Law Enforcement Charity Hockey Challenge' Facebook event page.

Nicola Valley Search and Rescue Association executive remaining the same for 2017.

At Monday night's AGM, Manager Lynne Broekhuizen says Nathan Brigden was re-elected president, John Puterbough as vice-president, Tracy Dunsmore as secretary, and Saxon Peters will return as director-at-large.

Over the course of the last fiscal year, Broekhuizen says the 25 regular members participated in 16 searches.

"Our membership has a variety of expertise, between the equipment and knowledge they provide. One of our members used to be a part of a rope rescue team at a mine, members that have ATV's and sleds, and some that are very skilled at mapping and running communications."

While another 12 recruits are currently in training to become regular members, Broekhuizen insists they can always use more.

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