Central Okanagan Public Schools administrative office in Kelowna. (File photo)

Central Okanagan budget cutting measures mean loss of jobs

Teaching and custodial positions sacrificed to balance $3.332 million budget deficit

Job cuts will result from recommended fiscal adjustments by the Central Okanagan Public Schools superintendent/CEO to make up for a $3.3 million shortfall for the 2022-23 school year.

The audit and finance committee has signed off on superintendent Kevin Kaardal’s recommendations, which go before the Central Okanagan Board of Education for final approval at the board meeting Wednesday night (May 11).

Among the cuts proposed is a 7.5 full-time equivalent core teaching staff position reduction (generates a savings of $795,540); elimination of two vice-principal positions under a school reorganization process ($311,040); loss of seven custodial positions marking a return to pre-COVID-19 pandemic janitorial staffing levels ($347,269); and senior management discretionary spending reduction ($30,000).

On the revenue addition side, Kaardal suggests increasing the international education program by 30 students to generate a further $450,000.

School districts are mandated to present a balanced budget each year, which for the Central Okanagan School District will level out at $305,304,596.

School boards in the past, most notably the Vancouver School Board, who have chosen to submit a deficit budget have been summarily dismissed and the ministry has appointed officials to oversee the budgets were balanced.

Over the past month, as discussions began about the budget shortfall, trustees have been outspoken about the Ministry of Education not adequately funding the school district.

Two particular areas of concern have focused on the impact of inflation on school operating expenses and no funding for reliance on portables to deal with rising enrolment, forcing the school district in each case to drain funds from operating expenses to meet those costs.

In the B.C. Legislature last week, Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick raised those two issues with Minister of Education Jennifer Whiteside.

On portable costs, Whiteside avoided the financial aspect saying the provincial government is “working very hard with districts” to diminish the use of portables.

As for inflationary costs, Whiteside responded: “I, of course, want to acknowledge that – I think as we all know – the current inflationary environment is very volatile, fairly recent. We are working with districts to monitor the impact of the current situation on school districts.”

In his report, Kaardal cited several factors behind the 2022-23 budget deficit beyond the inflation and portable cost scenarios.

Other adjustments are required for expected incremental salary grid increases for teaching staff; increased teacher illness and replacement costs due to COVID-19 protocols; additional bus route costs for students transitioning from École George Pringle Elementary to Webber Road Elementary; and salary adjustments for principals, vice-principals and exempt management staff.

The board of education meeting takes place at the school board office at 1040 Hollywood Rd. in Kelowna, starting at 6 p.m.

READ MORE: Central Okanagan trustees distraught by $3.3M budget shortfall