School District 20 – Balanced budget forcing more staff cuts

More staff cuts are coming as SD20 prepares to balance its books and fill in the blanks on its budget for the coming school year.

More staff cuts are coming as the school district prepares to balance its books and fill in the blanks on its budget for the coming school year.

School District 20 (Kootenay Columbia) chair Darrel Ganzert said there will likely be another series of staffing cuts as the board of trustees begins to nail down the 2013/14 budget numbers this spring.

However, he said the cut won’t be as “deep” as it was last year when nearly 14 positions from the district’s teaching and support staff were cut to make up a $1.55 million budgetary shortfall.

Ganzert said the district has made over $4 million in cuts to programs and services—which ultimately means staff—for last eight years, and that trend will continue as the budget amount from the province keeps shrinking, dropping from $36.2 million in 2010/11 to $33.8 million in 2015/16 (estimate).

“There will be fewer people working in the district after this is over, hopefully most through attrition,” he said.

The anticipated deficit for 2014/2015 and 2015/2016 is $500,000, figures that could get worse if any labour settlements are not fully funded by the province.

“So we’re at the point now where it’s hard not to impact student learning in major ways, but we will have to do the best we can,” said Ganzert. “We’ll try to impact students in the classroom as a last resort.”

The majority (88 per cent) of the district’s budget this year is made up of wages—salaries and benefits, a number not lost on Andy Davidoff, president of the Kootenay Columbia Teachers Union.

In addition to the savings the board will generate from the school closures and the reconfiguration of Rossland Secondary School, the board is also looking to cut another $611,000 this year.

“The odds are it is all going to be staffing cuts,” Davidoff said. “I think its pretty clear they are not going to save any more money on school closures or facilities.”

For 2013/14 the district’s enrolment could be 3,760—about the same as this year—but could dip to 3,754 the next year, rising to 3,816 in 2015/16, the beginning of the estimated rise to 4,495 in 2026/2027.

Last year the teacher-to-student ratio rose by one to 25-to-one across the district, and up to 30-to-one in the high schools. A ratio rise is off the table this year, said Ganzert, after people said it was too much.

There are more meetings planned to discuss options with CUPE staff and KCTU, as well as parent advisory councils.

Ganzert said the district is also looking to the public right now to give them the feedback on how it should solve the shortfall it now has.

On the district’s website (http://www.sd20.bc.ca/district-news/items/budget-2013-2014-public-survey.html) is a question survey for anyone to complete.

The questions include garnering any suggestions how the district could save money in the coming year, what is the importance of education, and how could the school district generate funds in order to help balance the 2013/14 budget.

On Friday, April 5 is the last day to receive written public submissions for website on the budget. Over two weeks later on April 22 at Trail Middle School (6 p.m.) there will be an open meeting on the budget with a presentation of the superintendent’s proposed budget.

On Friday, May 3 at Trail Middle School (6 p.m.) at a special open board meeting the trustees will give third reading of 2013-2014 budget bylaw.

Submission of the preliminary 2013/14 budget goes to the Ministry of Education by June 30.