Central Okanagan school district faces deep budget cuts

Expect to hear about belt tightening at local schools following the latest district-wide budget.

Expect to hear about belt tightening at local schools following the latest district-wide budget.

In an attempt to get a grasp on the $4-million disparity between incoming funds and ongoing debts across the Central Okanagan School District, the school board met last week to compose a list of 10 cuts.

Most significant, according to board chair Moyra Baxter, is a $1.3-million reduction to the per pupil funding across the region for the 2014-15 budget.

“That is $70 less per pupil going to schools,” said Baxter, explaining that the school district usually allots $4,500 of $6,900 it gets from the province to local schools for each registered student.

The $70 apiece cut may not sound like much, but Baxter explained those are the dollars that are used for the bare necessities.

“At the school level when they sit down with less money, they’re going to have to look at things like special programs, and special areas of support, and maybe extra learning assistance,” she said.

“It’s a school-by-school decision. We’re leaving it to every school to sit down and see how these funds will be spent.”

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.

Baxter added that the cuts may not seem that noticeable in the upcoming school year, but if the district is forced to keep clawing back services to keep up with growing expenses, it will be a different story.

“If we have to make these cuts again next year, and don’t put (the funding) back… it has a cumulative effect,” she said.

“Absolutely people are going to start noticing that we have started to make these cuts—especially if the cost of utilities keep going up.”

It’s not just utilities, either.

School districts have had to kick in more for rising MSP premiums for their employees, and they have to figure out how to pay for salary increases set out in the recent CUPE agreement that weren’t funded by the province.

Baxter said that even simply offering an exemption from a hydro rate hike would have helped the district balance its budget, but the province said no to that, as well.

The trustees regular meeting Wednesday will see the board finalize its budget cutting decisions.