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Trustees prepare to slash budget

Sterling Olson, School District Treasurer - File photo
Sterling Olson, School District Treasurer
— image credit: File photo

School closures are not on the table for School District #83’s upcoming budget deliberations but just about everything else is being considered for cutbacks to cope with a $1.8 million deficit.

A proposed budget is being presented to trustees by secretary-treasurer Sterling Olson for the May 13 meeting, which details suggestions for cuts based on input from the public, parent and employee groups and preliminary budget discussions with school trustees.

“Unfortunately, the funding levels have not been increased to cover the escalating cost pressures that school districts have and continue to face. Unless this changes, school districts will be required to continue to reduce the programs, services and levels of service in our education system,” writes Olson in his report to the board.

A portion of the budget reductions are directly related to a decline in enrolment, particularly in the secondary grades, resulting in staffing and supply reductions of $620,000 without impacting the current level of service in the school district.

This, however, leaves a remaining deficit of $1.2 million that has to be cut from school district operations.

The report suggests a number of cuts across a vast area of school district programs including: reductions in music program administration to save $40,000, speech and language pathologists to save $20,000, cuts to deaf and hard of hearing programs to save $20,000, gifted program cuts to save $20,000, special education teachers reductions for a $40,000 savings, and counselling staff cuts shared between secondary and middle schools to save a total of $50,000.

Other notable reductions in staffing come to teacher/librarians, where the suggestion is to change the elementary and middle school staffing ratios to match the secondary school level of one full time position for 700 students. This will mean cuts of nearly three full-time positions for a saving of $284,400.

Cuts are also suggested for the family life teaching position to save $60,000. If passed, this means regular classroom teachers will be required to teach the family life components of the curriculum.

Department services and supply budgets, including professional development and travel expenses, are being cut by $266,600, while substitute and replacements budgets are being cut by $100,000, primarily from a reduction in professional development leaves.

The school board had already previously voted to cut the adult education program for a savings of $120,000.

Maintenance budgets are also being trimmed by $108,000.

It is important to note that as part of provincial legislation, the operations budget of the school district is separate from the capital component. This means, for example, that the school district can not sell an unused school property and funnel that money into paying for a music program.

There are still some looming unknowns for the school district including current collective bargaining negotiations between the province and the BC Teachers Federation.

“It is unknown what impact any outcomes from these processes will have on the district, writes Olson. “While it is the hope that government will fully fund any negotiated changes, this has not been confirmed.”

The school trustees will have the opportunity to review these budget proposals at the May 13 regular meeting before the annual budget bylaw is presented for approval at the June 10 regular meeting.  Olsen’s full budget report is available for viewing not he School District #83 website at www.sd83.bc.ca.

 

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