School district escapes major cuts in next year’s budget

The Okanagan Skaha School District is going to have a bit of a respite this year when it comes to planning the budget for the 2011-12 school year.

The Okanagan Skaha School District is going to have a bit of a respite this year when it comes to planning the budget for the 2011-12 school year.

That’s because they won’t be dealing with a shortfall this year, after having to deal with major budget cuts over the past two years. Though there is fine-tuning to do as the public budget consultation continues, secretary-treasurer Ron Shongrunden’s preliminary budget shows there will be no need to find major cost savings this year. That’s due in part to the continuation of funding protection from the Ministry of Education, which amounts to almost $1.4 million this year.

The 2012-13 budget could be a very different situation, he said, as there is no guarantee the funding protection will continue. His, admittedly very rough, projection shows that could include a structural deficit as high as $1.5 million.

“We’re not out of the woods, not by a long shot,” he said.

Calling the 2011-12 a “rollover budget,” he added there are no cuts planned at this stage of the budget development.

“In essence, we have a one-year reprieve,” he said.

While this year’s budget may be stable, Shongrunden said that hasn’t stopped the district from looking for efficiencies and ways to bring more revenue into the district, perhaps by generating revenue from technology services and enticing fee-paying international students to the district. They’re also looking at the neighbourhood schools concept, where areas of the school might be rented after hours, creating revenue from appropriate uses of the facilities.

The school district’s budget process continues, with a series of stakeholder meetings over the next month, before it comes before the May 4 finance and management committee meeting and then again at the regular board meeting on May 9, when they expect to adopt the preliminary budget.

During the process, the public will be able to offer their input, suggestions and priorities through an online survey, which can be accessed through the district’s website at sd67.bc.ca.