SD20 seeking ideas to trim $590,000 from budget

"We will not be receiving enough money for the next school year to maintain all programs and services." - Greg Luterbach

School District 20 (SD20) is seeking input to help cut over half-a-million dollars from next year’s budget.

Last week, district superintendent Greg Luterbach sent an email out to parents and stakeholders detailing staffing changes, extra charges for bussing and shorter custodial hours as some of the many ideas considered for the 2015-2016 school budget.

Luterbach said anyone with ideas or questions about cuts or generating more revenue for the district is invited to an information night on April 15 at the Kootenay Columbia Learning Centre (KCLC) in Trail.

“The intent of the evening is to help the public and our stakeholders understand the current budget position, what changes may be made for the 2015/2016 to balance the budget and provide people with the opportunity to provide feedback to the board,” he explained.

SD20 has also opened up an online survey, which has already garnered 20 responses, to gather input ahead of next month’s public presentation

As opinions on cuts come in, Luterbach wants people to understand why rollbacks are needed – expenses are getting higher, and the budget, while growing, isn’t growing enough.

“We will not be receiving enough money for the next school year to maintain all programs and services,” he said, adding that there is funding coming in for staff wage increases, but it won’t cover the difference.

“(Even with extra wage funding) if we kept all services at the same levels as we planned initially for this school year, we will still be $590,000 short.”

Darrel Ganzert, chair of the board, says the trustees are trying their best to work with what they have been given, but staffing numbers may still go down.

“It is very distressing for us to be cutting year after year,” he said. “Our concept has always been to cut away from the classroom as far as we can.

“That has left our buildings in a state that is not good. All other sorts of non-teaching things have suffered.

“As trustees, we understand declining enrolment and that we are going to have to look at losing some teaching staff and support staff, but it goes beyond that. There is no increased cost for inflation and there hasn’t been, which is like a loss.

“We try to put the best face we can on it, but we are angry.”

One suggestion listed with the intent to generate funds for the district, rather than cut, is to charge an annual fee to use the school bus system – a route other districts across the province have already gone down.

“Given the budget pressure, one possibility is to charge a flat-rate fee (of either $100 or $50 per year) to recoup part of the cost of the transportation system,” said Luterbach. “The board’s cost to transport one student averages out at approximately $750 after wages, fuel and maintenance. While a $50 or $100 fee would be a major change and would impact families, it no way covers our actual costs. SD35 (Langley) charges $250 for one student, SD62 (Sooke) charges $135 per year for one student, SD75 (Mission) charges $240 for one student (and so on).”

District Parent Advisory Council (DPAC) president, Rebecca McDonnell, says this isn’t the first time bussing and personnel have come up when SD20 budget time rolls around.

“The list has nothing that hasn’t been on there before,” she said. “I think parents have always known that this kind of thing was going to happen. Previous years, there has been a very negative reaction from parents.”

It is too early for McDonnell to comment for all parent advisory councils in the district regarding this year’s round of budget issues, simply because they are still looking at all of the options available on the list sent out by Luterbach.

“I can’t give you a DPAC perspective yet because this information is still being disseminated among our members and we still need to find out more information about exactly how all the parents feel,” she said. “We represent our entire district so, our reps are talking to their PACs and they are finding out opinions.”

Before the board’s public budget presentation, DPAC, along with the Kootenay Columbia Teachers Union and the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 1285, all stakeholders with the school district, are going to have an opportunity to address the board of trustees and share their thoughts and ideas.

The first public presentation of the budget is on April 15 at 6:30 p.m. at the KCLC. The second reading of the budget is scheduled for April 27 at 7 p.m. during the board’s regular meeting. The final reading, with no opportunity for discussion, will take place on May 1 at the KCLC. Parents are also invited to share their opinions through McDonnell at dpac@sd20.bc.ca.

To access the online survey about budget cuts, visit www.fluidsurveys.com/s/sd20/1516budgetsurvey.

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