Trustee pitches ‘managed deficit’ to school district

Mickey Kinakin will be arguing in favour of a managed deficit for SD20 as the board of trustees begins its annual budget deliberations.

The school district could be borrowing against its future if one school trustee has his way.

Mickey Kinakin will be arguing in favour of a managed deficit for School District 20 (Kootenay Columbia) as the board of trustees begins its annual budget deliberations this month.

Last year the board cut nearly 14 full time equivalent jobs across the district to deal with a $1.55 million operating shortfall.

And with a total of $700,000 needing to be trimmed from the $42-million budget for next year, coupled with enrolment set to rise over the next few years, Kinakin felt the time was ripe for stopping the blood letting cuts.

On Monday SD20 board chair Darrell Ganzert said programs and services will have to be trimmed—and some staff members as well—in order to account for some of the budgetary shortfall.

But Kinakin said a managed deficit would keep the programs, services and staff positions the district now has until its enrolment begins to rise within the next five years.

“Once you cut something it’s really hard to put it back,” he said. “That’s what managed deficits do, is try to minimize as much damage done to the students and the staff.”

A managed deficit—borrowing money from the province to pay for a current shortfall, on the promise of paying it back—needs to get approved by the Ministry of Education,

It’s like getting a loan from the bank, said Kinakin, you have to prove you can pay it back. And that will have to be negotiated with the government.

“So that means there’s a few thousands of dollars of tough changes you don’t have to make right now,” he said.

“We know our figures are going up in the future, our population numbers, so stretch that (deficit) out over a five-year period.

“So when you run a surplus in the future you pay off the deficit.”

The school district’s budget is set to be delivered by the end of May, after around 20 meetings to get it finalized and detailed.

Recently announced school closures will take up nearly half of the shortfall—around $300,000—with $350,000 left to be found in cuts to programs and services, said Ganzert. And with staffing making up 88 per cent of the budget, there will be some positions lost.

“When you cut back on programs and you cut back on services someone loses a job,” he said. “Usually it is a junior position, or through attrition, no one really leaves but you don’t bring a new person in.”

The cuts last year were dealt to staff and included two teacher-librarians, eight teachers, three non-enrolling teacher staff, and one custodian.

Cutting the teacher salaries meant the district saved $1.17 million, the largest chunk out of the $1.58 million in total cuts made.

There was also a district-wide rise in student-to-teacher ratio—from 24-1 to 25-1—that impacted the electives offered at the high school level.