School District 20: Balanced budget passes with little objection

The open meeting was attended by one member of the public and was a near-unanimous vote.

The School District 20 (SD 20) Board of Trustees and senior staff gathered for a special open board meeting at the Kootenay Columbia Learning Centre Friday for the third and final reading of the 2014-2015 Budget Bylaw.

In spite of the meeting being open to the public a grand total of one member of the public, a media representative, was on hand to observe the 20-minute, near unanimous vote, with only one trustee, alternate B.C. Public School Employers Association representative, Jen Carter, in opposition to the budget.

The vote provides final approval of the close to $41  million budget for the coming school year, which the board and staff were able to balance after weeks of deliberation and consideration of a “long list” of potential cost savings necessary to eliminate over $860,000 of projected deficit.

At the April 28 open board meeting where the bylaw had its first and second readings, trustees voiced the personal struggles they had experienced in trying to decide where cuts could be made with the least impact on students within the district.

The finalized budget will see the reduction of teaching staff based on projected reduced student enrollment, the elimination of a position in the finance department, and the reduction of one trades position.

“There will be four less teachers but those should be covered via retirements and those on temporary contracts (people whose job is already known to end at the end of June,)” Superintendent for Schools for SD 20, Greg Luterbach, said in an email. “There will be one less accountant through the loss of the SD 10 financial services contract, and one less electrician, which is occurring through natural attrition.”

Luterbach said the remainder of changes to staffing costs are to be achieved by the shifting of costing between various budget lines and some possible changes to staffing hours in some positions.

Other savings were found in cutting supply costs and pursuing negotiations with the City of Trail to encourage them to pay a portion of the costs of maintaining the Fieldhouse indoor athletic facility.

“This year’s budget was a slightly easier process because it was developed by senior school district staff and they know the district and where cuts could be made without hurting the kids,” said trustee, Mark Wilson. “Previous years were way more complicated because schools were being closed and it became much more political.”

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