School board prepares to slash $1.3 million

It’s time for School District #83 trustees to get out their scissors and start cutting.

It’s time for School District #83 trustees to get out their scissors and start cutting.

On Thursday, March 17, trustees will participate in a budget advisory committee meeting to consider how they will cut an estimated $1.3 million from the budget for the upcoming school year.

One of the suggested ways for the board to save the money was to cut schools, with the school district previously initiating a 60-day public consultation period to consider the closure of Silver Creek Elementary and Armstrong Elementary schools. This course, however, took a new direction when the board voted to extend the consultation for these closures until April 2016, effectively removing the idea of any school closures for the upcoming year.

The School District is also considering the closure of Parkview Elementary and converting Eagle River Secondary into a K-12 school. But this is also not planned until 2017.

With this option now off the table, the Observer emailed each trustee to offer their own ideas of what to cut in order to balance the budget this year.

Only three out of nine trustees responded by the deadline.

Jenn Wilchuk, trustee for Carlin-Sorrento, noted the decision making process will be tough.

“We are currently operating with approximately 25 per cent of our student seats empty – this will continue to be a fiscal challenge until we are able to make some significant changes to our infrastructure. Our Budget Advisory Committee will be meeting this week, and their recommendations will be put forth to the entire board for discussion.  It does not seem prudent for individual trustees to voice their thoughts and opinions regarding our budget cuts until we have had some time for collaboration.”

Barry Chafe, the Sicamous-Malakwa trustee, voted against extending the consultation period on school closures.

“I had thought to cover some of the shortfall in our budget and reduce the impact on student learning, through money saved by the consolidation of facilities. As facility consolidation will not happen this year, I now need to rethink the options for this year’s budget.”

Board chair Bobbi Johnson says the board will spend the next two months considering options.

“We have a process that will take the next two months to get a balanced budget.  As in past years we have looked over everything presented and tried to take dollars out without impacting the classroom. We will continue to do the best that we can.”

Trustees Bob Fowler, Debbie Evans, Chris Coers, Kelly Rowe, Larissa Lutjen and Michel Saab did not respond to the question. Thursday’s meeting is from 3 to 5 p.m. at the new District Education Centre on Shuswap Street and is open to the public.