The finance and audit committee meeting Wednesday was the first public event held at the newly opened Central Okanagan School District administration building on Hollywood Road in Rutland. Photo: Barry Gerding/Black Press

Central Okanagan trustees grapple with budget cuts

Proposed spending requires $2,283,156 reduction

Central Okanagan school trustees were given a look Wednesday at a proposal to cut $2,283,156 from the operating budget for the 2018-19 school year.

School administrator/CEO Kevin Kaardal recommended spending reductions to balance the $253,885,101 budget that won’t result in any job losses but will curtail discretionary spending along with school operating and utilities costs.

Budget pressure has been caused by projected cost increases for the 2018-19 school year along with rising enrolment, said Eileen Sadlowski, school district secretary-treasurer, at a presentation to the finance and audit committee, which includes all the trustees and chaired by Julia Fraser.

Those costs include $1 million for portable requirements to meet enrolment increase and class composition contract levels, negotiated increases for Canadian Union of Public Employee support workers (1.4 per cent) and teachers (1.9 per cent), salary raises for principals, vice-principals and management staff (1.9 per cent), two additional bus routes and the new 1.95 per cent provincial payroll tax which the ministry of education has offered no funding assistance to cover.

Related: Fewer students means less money

The budget proposal to eliminate the deficit resulted in absorbing surplus carryover funding for school portables ($1,000,000) and technology security ($100,000); and reductions in the $3 million budgets for school district operations ($174,676) and utilities ($150,000).

In addition, requests for one teaching staff position as support for implementing curriculum changes ($101,160) and a full-time IT system analyst ($100,000) were dropped, and a request of $85,000 for a numeracy instruction support was reduced to $55,000.

The remainder of the deficit would be made up by elimination of general inflation projections ($400,000) and discretionary staffing ($202,320).

Susan Bauhart, president of Central Okanagan Teachers Association, questioned resource spending increases at the administration level, saying education should focus on the ground up and not the top down.

Bauhart also noted that continued cuts to the school district operations budget is both demoralizing to support staff and has an impact on school infrastructure, citing one example of how Glenmore Elementary “looked more like a jail than a school.”

Related: No budget cuts for school district in 2017-18

Trustee Lee Mossman echoed Bauhart’s sentiments, asking that any extra funds that arise when the budget is finalized after the student registration numbers are confirmed next fall should be directed to school operating costs.

“It just seems the operations budget always gets the short end of the stick. If there is an opportunity to recover more revenue when the final numbers are done, it’s long overdue for those funds to be directed back to operations,” Mossman said.

David Tether, president of the CUPE local for school district support staff, said there is more work to be done than school district trades staff can deal with.

“That means jurisdiction comes into play and that work is contracted out. We have to go along with that under our contract but it means contracting our work that should normally be done by our own people. We understand why that has to be done, but from our point of view that is lost work that our members had done in the past, which is often overlooked,” Tether said.

Kevin Kaardal, school district superintendent/CEO, said all the spending requests were desirable to include, but had to be prioritized with the budget funds available.

With the fifth largest school district in the province at more than 22,000 students, the district receives 93 per cent of its funding from the provincial government.

Kaardal said he will rework the budget cut recommendations one last time for the next finance and audit committee meeting April 18, and the budget will be forwarded for approval before the school board at its April 25 board meeting.

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