Budget cuts for Central Okanagan becoming annual battle

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CENTRAL OKANAGAN - School trustees must find ways to cut $3.2 million from the upcoming budget, double last year’s shortfall.

“We are actually getting more money but that barely covers increases to salaries,” Central Okanagan school board chairwoman Moyra Baxter says. “It’s complicated."

Last year, the provincial government allowed principals and vice-principals a modest two per cent raise after years where their wages were frozen across the sector.

“That is not covered, nor is the increase to medical service premiums,” Baxter says. “It’s a thousand small cuts and that’s how we have to find the money, a bit here and a bit there. The problem is it's beginning to happen every single year.”

Baxter says the finance committee will recommend boosting revenue by, amongst other things, increasing international student enrolment, charging more for some school rentals and increasing school bus fees by $50.

“We are nowhere near cost recovery on school buses and even with an increase of $50 is still quite cheap compared to regular transit,” Baxter adds.

The school district increased international enrolment by 25 seats in 2015, which helped to deal with last year’s $1.5-million budget shortfall, in addition to doubling school bus fees to $200, from $100.

This year’s operating budget is approximately $185 million, she adds.

Baxter and the school board must, by law, submit a balanced budget. The provisional budget is due in June but is not finalized until after September’s enrolment estimates are confirmed.

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