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Impact of school cuts won't be clear until next year

School trustees voted in favour of $4 million in budget cuts Wednesday night, although nobody could really say how that decision would eventually pan out.

Central Okanagan school board Trustee Murli Pendharkar asked at least four times what would be the specific impact to schools once the budget cuts were implemented in the upcoming year, and he was told that it wasn't clear.

"Can we say we will have to reduce staff by (a specific) number," he asked.

No, was the short answer.

School district superintendent Hugh Gloster pointed out that Central Okanagan school district is in the unique position of expecting a surge in kindergarten enrolment in the year ahead, and a significant drop in senior high school students.

Kindergarten students require a higher teacher/student ratio, so there will be some hiring done for the elementary grades.

High school, however, does not. No word on what that means, although one trustee suggested that schools could adapt to thinner resources by rotating course.

For example, Physics 12 could be one year, but not the next.

Gloster pointed out that specifics on cuts should be known by September.

To get a grasp on the $4-million disparity between incoming funds and ongoing debts across the Central Okanagan School District, the school board cut in 10 areas.

Most significant is the $1.3-million reduction to the per pupil funding across the region for the 2014-15 budget.

Other significant cuts include $250,000 taken from the district’s technology budget, $50,000 reduction to the Hollywood Road/Learning Centre budget, $120,000 less for the operations department budget and $500,000 less for the resource allocation to schools.

The reason behind the shortfall has to do with rising utility costs, and the fact districts have to kick in more for rising MSP premiums for their employees. Also creating pressure is salary increases set out in the recent CUPE agreement that weren’t funded by the province.

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