School district struggles to balance books

SD 20 ponders $870,000 budget deficit for 2014/2015

In addition to dealing with current job action by the B.C. Teachers Federation (BCTF), which includes having to take over student supervision during recess, School District 20 (SD 20) administrators also face the daunting task of having to find almost $870,000 in savings in order to eliminate the budget deficit for the 2014/2015 school year.

At the April 16 regular meeting of the Board of Education, Greg Luterbach, SD 20 superintendent, submitted his proposed budget for the year, along with recommendations on potential savings that could be pursued.

In spite of being on opposite sides of the union/administration fence during a job action, Andy Davidoff, president of the Kootenay Columbia Teachers Union, doesn’t express hard feelings towards the local board.

“The board has a very difficult, unpleasant and unnecessary task in cutting over $800,000 from its budget due to chronic government under-funding of public education in this province,” Davidoff said in an email. “They have the unenviable task of deciding which parts of its budget to amputate; fingers, toes, or limbs.”

The budget proposal will be presented for its second reading and public discussion at the board’s regular open meeting, Monday evening at the Kootenay-Columbia Learning Centre, in the former Trail Middle School.

Included in the recommendations are many of the suggestions put forward in the board’s “long list” of potential budget alterations released in March, such as: the elimination of one trades position, the reduction of as many as four full-time teaching positions due to lower student enrollment, and a potential reduction of library staff.

There are also potential changes to transportation strategies for students, ranging from charging for bussing services on a per-student yearly basis to eliminating bussing services and providing students who live outside of the district’s set walking limits with funding for public transit.

None of the suggestions are written in stone yet as far as the budget goes and will be open for discussion and debate at the April 28 meeting.

In addition to looking for financial line items to reduce expenditures the board also continues to seek out various strategies to try to generate more money within the district.

One strategy the board has recently implemented is to strike a “revenue generation” committee, consisting of Luterbach and SD 20 trustee, Mark Wilson, which is open to looking at any and all options that might make money for the district.

“We’re looking at any ideas without imposing additional costs on the kids,” said Wilson. “Government funding isn’t enough and we have to cut another $800,000.”

Wilson said the committee is seeking public input for any ideas on fund-raising but, so far, hasn’t gotten much response.

“We advertised for the public to come to meetings but didn’t get very many people out,” he said. “People have ideas we need to hear, we need somebody who is thinking outside the box.”

Information on the budget process, as well as the proposed operating budget can be found on the SD 20 website at http://www.sd20.bc.ca/budget-process.html.

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