School budget crunched

Delicate balancing act, but deficit plan forbidden

School District #27 (SD27) found slightly more than half of the $1.6 million in savings it needed to balance its budget for the 2014/15 school year by the June 15 deadline.

SD27 secretary treasurer Kevin Futcher says recent efforts to bring in a balanced budget have left the district facing a budget shortfall of more than $700,000.

This reflects additional cost-cutting measures from the approximately $900,000 reported at the end of April. After working further with staff, he says a total of $884,000 in savings (about 55 per cent of the deficit) was identified within its 2014/15 budget.

Among these cost cuts is approximately $300,000 in program reductions, mostly from a reduction to the GROW adult continuing education programs in Williams Lake and 100 Mile House.

Another $213,000 was found in reduced administration costs, including the elimination of two principal/vice-principal positions and reductions in other departments.

While cancelling a balanced calendar (optional year-round classes) program at Cataline Elementary School in Williams Lake saved $173,000, Futcher notes the remainder was mostly found through a number of other, small reductions.

The current structural deficit is $188,000, he adds.

The secretary/treasurer explains how it will make up the remaining $716,000 in its total deficit.

“We will need to draw on the accumulated surplus to balance next year’s budget.”

In March, trustees pledged they would not close any more schools in the school district to address all these shortfalls, but are concentrating on finding other ways to cut operating costs instead.

The Ministry of Education has reduced SD27’s funding for next year by $800,000 as a result of declining student enrolment and the partial elimination of funding protection.

The district-wide September 2013 enrolment was at 4,833, which is expected to decrease to about 4,600 students by this fall.

On top of that, there are increased costs to cover the new collective agreement government has reached with district support workers that will cost the district an additional $455,000, Futcher notes.

The ministry has stated no additional funding will be available to school districts for these contract obligations.