School district 20 – Board faces tough task of reining in budget

School district board of trustees grapple with their shrinking budget.

Teaching staff could be one of the areas the school district board of trustees makes cuts to for next year as they grapple with how to rein in costs for a shrinking budget.

Nearly every facet of the school district operation is currently being laid open as less funding is expected to come from the province for next year’s budget — around $600,000 — prompting School District 20’s board of education to consider how they will do more with less.

Prior to getting into an in-camera discussion about potential cuts to custodial, transportation and secretarial Wednesday night at Blueberry Creek Community School, the board heard from the Kootenay Columbia Teachers Union and CUPE along with the District Parent Advisory Council (DPAC) on where they saw education going.

At this time, the board has only announced a vague list of areas where cuts could be made while it continues to make a record of potential savings behind closed doors.

Board chair Darrel Ganzert says all school district functions and areas are under review, including: administration, clerical staffing, custodial services, facilities and teacher staffing, libraries, services and supplies, sick leave, technology, trustees and transportation.

“We’ve generated, for lack of a better term, an evil list and some things are just so outrageous that we’re not going to consider them as a board but we put them down on paper anyway,” said Ganzert Thursday.

“We’re going through this big huge list and we’re eliminating the most evil, most unworkable, most impractical and then we’ll have a list that could possibly work and then we’ll seek union and public comment and then decide on a budget at some time in the future.”

The cuts were first discussed Feb. 27 with senior district staff present to pinpoint some initial areas of consideration.

After several closed meetings, the board will present its final recommendations to the union and DPAC April 12 with a public meeting shortly after.

The school district faces a potential funding shortfall of approximately $1.4 million in the coming year due to cutbacks from the Ministry of Education’s funding formula and a declining school enrollment rate across the district.

The district is considering areas for possible revenue generation, but those are very limited, Ganzert admitted. The board lacks the power of taxation and depends almost entirely on operating grants and targeted funding from the Ministry of Education, he said.

The shortfall prediction and the possible cuts could still be affected after the school district receives its funding announcement from the Ministry of Education when spring break concludes in two weeks.