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School District 67 trims positions to tame budget deficit

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Despite trimming precisely 7.731 full-time equivalent jobs from its 2012-13 budget, the Okanagan Skaha School District could still see a slight staffing increase next fall.

Those job losses, among other reductions contained in the budget approved by trustees at a special meeting Monday, include 2.08 teachers and four certified education assistants. The cuts should be achieved by simply reducing some staffers’ workloads, so it’s unlikely anyone will actually be out of a job as a result.

“I don’t foresee any of that happening,” said assistant superintendent Dave Burgoyne.

And further, new money from the province’s Learning Improvement Fund will be allocated in the fall to hire help or buy supplies to deal with issues related to classroom composition. The fund could pay for four teachers and four CEAs, Burgoyne explained, which would just offset the job reductions.

With that in mind, the staffing cut “is not as bad as it looks,” he said.

Trustees also trimmed transportation and maintenance operations, and took $1 million from savings and reserves to make up a $1.7 million deficit in its $57 million operating budget for 2012-13, which is down from $58.4 million this year.

Revenue for the upcoming year is expected to slide to $55.4 million, down from $56.8 million this year. The decrease includes a $1.3 million drop in funding from the provincial government.

Board chair Ginny Manning said the district’s long-term planning strategy has helped smooth out its funding difficulties, “but still, reductions to services and programs are still necessary.”

Trustees received modest praise from Kevin Epp, president of the Okanagan Skaha Teachers’ Union.

“From the perspective of the board, I would say that they did what they could to keep the cuts away from the classroom,” he said.

Epp added, though, that dipping into the district’s savings to slay the deficit is a “Band-Aid situation,” and parents should be contacting their MLAs to urge them to fix the provincial funding formula

“The provincial government continues to try to sell the public on the story that there is enough money in the system,” he said.

Less charitable in his assessment was Mike Johnson, unit chair for support staff in the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

“It’s a shame that not just CUPE staff take it in on the chin here, but there will (also) be students suffering from this,” Johnson told trustees.

“It’s just a shame you couldn’t find the money somewhere else, (but) I know it’s a challenge for you guys and we do appreciate what you do.”

Included in the job cuts is the district’s only family planning teacher. The sex educator is retiring at the end of this year and won’t be replaced. Teachers will now tell elementary students about the birds and the bees, while the job will fall to counsellors in the higher grades.

Superintendent Wendy Hyer said Interior Health will “provide some support in those more touchier areas.”

Meanwhile, the cut to maintenance totals $84,000, and transportation was pared back by $50,000.

Secretary-treasurer Ron Shongrunden said the maintenance department will decide how to achieve the savings, be it through reducing salaries or deferring work, while the transportation cut will include eliminating a bus route in Summerland and realigning other routes there.

Enrolment declines, and related funding decreases, are still expected for the next few years, Manning said, so the board will continue to seek out new revenue-generation opportunities, such as tapping new sources of international students and expanding its technology business.

 

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