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Central Okanagan School District facing $3.2 million budget shortfall

School trustees looking for savings in several areas to find savings in budget meetings

The Central Okanagan School District is among the few districts around the province that continues to see growth, but that growth is coming at a cost that isn't being adequately funded by the provincial government, according to the school district superintendent.

The school district is facing a $3.2 million budget shortfall this year and in a report to school board trustees, superintendent Kevin Kaardal says the provincial government's funding formula is inadequately funding districts that are seeing increased costs due to growth.

"The Ministry of Education has increased the funding to the public education system however this funding

is proving insufficient to meet the cost of continuing all existing services to students," wrote Kaardal in a preliminary budget report. "The Central Okanagan School District has been identified as a high performing, efficiently run, growing school district yet, despite the additional government funding, services to students will have to be reduced to balance the budget."

School board trustees are in the process of deciding where those cuts can come from in what has become an annual tradition as school boards across the province struggle to balance their budgets, as mandated by the provincial government.

Kaardal has made a preliminary list of cuts and added programs to make up the $3.2 million (see sidebar) and the school board's finance committee will tackle the report next week before the full school board will vote on the budget on April 27.

Among the proposals for cost savings include an increase in the busing fee for children from $200 per year to $250 to bring in an extra $200,000 and the elimination of eight full time custodians for a savings of $450,000.

A further reduction in the district's technology services would save $500,000 but would mean computer hardware wouldn't be replaced as often resulting in the continued use of older equipment, wrote Kaardal.

There is also potential for savings by increasing the average class size in Grade 8 to 12 in the district, a move that could save $660,000 with Kaardal writing that the district is currently below provincial guidelines for class size at all grade levels.

School board chair Moyra Baxter says there is always ways to find the necessary cost savings, but they all come at a cost.

"You can find efficiencies but if your cutting down on custodial work for instance, we know the schools won't be as clean as they were before," she said. "If you're cutting down on grounds-keepers we know the school playing fields won't be kept as pristine and people will complain. What we are trying to do is make sure we don't have to cut programs like music and that sort of thing. We try to avoid that."

Baxter said the Central Okanagan School District isn't in as bad of shape as some around the province, pointing to Vancouver where the board needs to trim $25 million. She added they are not in danger of having to close any schools and invited the public and education partner groups out to the finance committee meeting next Wednesday to share ideas to help public education.


Preliminary budget proposal to save $3.2 million in Central Okanagan School District

Increases in Revenue:

Expand International Education Program $ 150,000

Increase Transportation User Fees $ 200,000

Develop a Blended Learning Services (BLS) Model to Provide Remote Instruction and/or Resource to other School Districts $ 25,000

Increase District Rental Fees $ 20,000

SUB-TOTAL: $ 395,000

Savings in District Operations

Implement a District Wellness Support System $ 100,000

Eliminate Budget Increases for Inflation $ 400,000

Restructure Transportation Services with the Potential Cancellation of some Busing Routes $ 50,000

Reduce Funds Dedicated to District Meetings $ 25,000

Reduce Professional Development Allocations to Local Specialist Associations (LSA) $ 10,000

Restructure Custodial Services $ 450,000

Eliminate District Supported Field Lining $ 20,000

Reduce Portable Moves Budget Allocation $ 50,000

Reduce General Supplies and Services Budgets $ 25,000

SUB-TOTAL: $1,130,000

Savings in District Instructional Supports

Restructure Clerical Support in the District $ 75,000

Reduce Technology Services in the District $ 500,000

Reduce Budgets for District Instructional Support and Leadership Programs $ 376,000

Reduce Budgets for Special Education $ 75,000

Reduce General Supplies and Services Budgets $ 25,000

SUB-TOTAL: $ 1,051,000

Saving in School Allocations

Reduce Funding to Schools $ 660,000

TOTAL: $ 660,000

TOTAL Budget Adjustments: $ 3,236,000