February 01, 2014 - 10:59 AM
TRUSTEES LOOKING FOR BUDGET CUTS
PENTICTON - As the Okanagan Skaha School District looks for ways to solve an estimated $1.2 million deficit for the 2014-15 budget, the solutions could get personal.
District Secretary-Treasurer Bonnie Roller-Routley says savings will have to come from somewhere. A reduction in funding protection means fewer dollars from the province, plus wage and benefit increases for union members is also negatively impacting the bottom line.
Part of the board's plan will be getting input from senior district staff and school principals. Roller-Routley says the district will go through the budget line-by-line to find savings. This might include how many hours employees work.
She points out it can be tough talking about possible budget cuts with people who might be directly affected.
"In some ways that happens in every budget discussion," she says. "There's always the potential it's the person across the table."
Roller-Routley said the estimated deficit of $1.2 million partly comes from how the district is protected from lower enrollment. Because school boards are funded by the provincial government based on the number of students, funding protection slows the amount of money boards lose when they lose students.
And the financial protection gets thinner every year Routley explained. For the 2014-2015 budget the estimated loss of 152 students will mean a loss of $800,000. Then there is more than $300,000 the school board will need to pay for wage increases and a higher electric bill.
Roller-Routley says a $1.2 million deficit is a big chunk when the budget for 2014-15 is about $52 million.
"It is a large number. It works out to probably 1.7 per cent of our overall budget."
Okanagan Skaha Teachers' Union president Leslea Woodward says she's concerned where the board is going to find savings. One solution would be to get more provincial government funding for education.
Woodward explains B.C. public schools get less money per student than other provinces.
"If we were funded properly we would have $1,000 per student. That would be big money," she says.
The board plans to hold public meeting on the budget. The final document won't go to a board vote until June.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014