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Funding inadequate to keep schools open in Okanagan Skaha School District

Okanagan-Skaha School Disrict Superintendent Wendy Hyer says today's announcement of funding for the school district is not enough to allow any of the three district schools slated for closure to remain open.
May 31, 2016 - 5:00 PM

PENTICTON - Okanagan Skaha School District Superintendent Wendy Hyer says today’s funding announcement by the province will not be enough to save any schools in District 67 from closure.

Hyer was commenting on a provincial government release issued today, May 31, announcing administrative savings of $266,527 to be provided to School District 67.

The release also urged the school district to use the funding to save Trout Creek and West Bench Elementary Schools from closure.

“In our last budget meeting we still had a structural deficit of approximately $291,000, which we used reserve funds of $250,000 and the remainder cut from the 2016/17 year budget,” Hyer said in an email.

“If we use reserve dollars this will have to be added to future reductions; therefore, this additional $266,000 allows us to balance our budget without adding to the structural deficit,” she said, noting the money is coming back to the district from previously provincially requested administrative cuts.

In today’s announcement, Penticton MLA Dan Ashton called upon the school district to ask for a special advisor to review the school closure decisions, “given the significant concerns raised by the community about this process."

Hyer said the board has not yet discussed whether or not it will retain a special advisor to review the district’s school closure process, noting the district has not received any official offer from the province to provide a special advisor at their cost.

Today’s announced funding is a one year only offer, Hyer noted, adding there has been no commitment by the province to sustain the funding.

She said the money will help alleviate the pressures of ongoing cost such as district insurance and unfunded wage increases.

With respect to the district’s budget operating surplus, Hyer said the school district has a restricted surplus of $1.6 million plus a $250,000 reserve allocated to next year’s budget. She say the restricted funds have already been allocated to schools and specific programs.

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