Okanagan Skaha School District board chair Ginny Manning and secretary-treasurer Ron Shongrunden at a December meeting.

Okanagan Skaha School District board chair Ginny Manning and secretary-treasurer Ron Shongrunden at a December meeting.

Okanagan Skaha School District to trim 10 staff positions

Cuts contained in 2013-14 budget will also spell the end of gifted-student programs in middle schools in Penticton and Summerland

Budget cuts and declining enrolment will see 10 staff positions trimmed next year from the Okanagan Skaha School District.

Trustees on Monday approved the 2013-14 budget, which eliminates 2.4 full-time equivalent positions and will kill the gifted-student program in middle schools. A projected enrolment decline of 139.4 FTE students also means 7.7 FTE teachers will be dropped.

“They were all very difficult decisions, and it was a big collaborative effort to see where we could shave a bit here and shave a bit there to make it work,” said Trustee Ginny Manning, who chairs the school board.

On the revenue side, operating grants from the B.C. Ministry of Education are expected to slide by $600,000 to $52.6 million as a result of the projected enrolment decline to about 5,700 FTE students.

On the expense side, the operating budget for 2013-14 is set at $56 million, down from $57.3 million this year. Teachers’ salaries and benefits are the largest budget expense at $27.9 million, down $400,000 from this year. The budget for support staff will also shrink by $200,000 to $4.8 million, while costs for school and district administrators will remain about the same.

Staff cuts include:

-0.9 FTE helping teachers

-0.7 FTE reduction to gifted-student program

– 0.5 FTE from behaviour program

– 0.2 FTE administrators

– 0.1 FTE teachers for hearing-impaired students.

The district will also reduce expenditures on supplies, equipment and travel by up to $190,000, trim its maintenance and custodial budget by $88,000, and shrink clerical spending by $70,000.

Secretary-treasurer Ron Shongrunden said the district has tried to take a long-term approach to budgeting to minimize the impact on staff, and was able to capitalize on retirements to make cuts. He’s still uncertain, though, where the maintenance and custodial savings will be found.

“We haven’t quite decided exactly how it’s going to work,” he said, adding “there will be less service actually happening.”

Trustee Linda Van Alphen, who chairs the school board’s finance committee, noted the budget cuts were only decided upon following 10 meetings with staff and parent groups.

“These are the things that we came to as a collective,” she said.

Okanagan Skaha Teachers’ Union president Leslea Pryde acknowledged the school board’s efforts to minimize budget impacts on students and staff, but said the cuts won’t go unnoticed.

“What they’ve done is try to keep it, I understand, out of the classroom, (but) it’s still going to affect kids no matter how hard you try. We’re not happy. We’re not happy with cuts,” Pryde said.

With the budget meeting on the eve of the provincial election, some trustees expressed optimism that a change in government could bring increased funding for education, although Pryde isn’t holding her breath.

“I don’t know that a change in government is going to create miracles,” she said, “but hopefully there’s people out there who see the value in public education.”