Kootenay Lake School board’s budget numbers don’t add up
I am a retired teacher, but I will always be a supporter of public education in our school district.
Unfortunately, I think our school board is doing a poor job of supporting our students and schools this school year.
Our school board has shown two main areas of weakness that need immediate improvement.
First, our school board should not be afraid to give the public honest, accurate information. When someone asks how many fewer, full-time equivalent teaching positions there are this school year, trustees and administration should know the answer and give the public the answer. They should also know what programs and services have been cut this school year.
I am concerned that some of the information that the public has received this school year has been misleading or incorrect and our trustees have made no attempt to correct that misinformation and let the public hear the truth.
For example, I would like to clarify a statement that appeared in the November 2 edition of the Nelson Star that said, “there are five more teaching positions in the district this year compared to last year.”
There might be a “53-student increase in enrolment overall,” but how can there be more teaching positions when the proposed balanced budget in the spring of 2012 had, approximately, a $3 million cut to the teacher salaries budget line.
The reality is that the school board cut five fewer teaching positions than they expected. How many teaching positions were still cut? Good luck finding out that information.
Our school board gives me the impression that they would rather make things “look good” than give out any accurate information that might cause some concern to the public.
Second, our school board should do its homework when it comes to the budget process. They should expect the budget to make sense. For example, I am still concerned about a large discrepancy between the amount of savings to be accomplished from reducing the teacher salaries budget line as shown on financial documents and the number of proposed teaching positions to be reduced in School District No. 8.
The following is what I have observed during the 2012/13 budget process:
• In the spring of 2012 it was estimated there would be a cut to teachers’ salaries equalling $2,992,413 and an estimated reduction in teaching staff 19. By my calculation that would mean that each teacher earns $157,495. We know that’s not the case.
• On November 1, 2012, the Nelson Star reported an influx of students and five more teachers than proposed which equalled a 14 FTE reduction in teaching staff but I noticed no change in cut to the teachers’ salaries budget line from previous estimates. The proposed cut was still at $2,992,413. That would mean that each teacher earns $213,743.
• On November 20, 2012, document App F, p 25 titled “School Staffing Comparison 2011-12 and 2012-13” indicates an increase of 51.218 students to the district and a decrease of 8.8217 FTE staff.
• Document titled “Salaries at December 31, 2012” (finance committee meeting, January 29, 2013, p. 66) — teachers’ salaries line increased by $383,551 equalling a cut to the teachers’ salaries budget line of $2,608,862. Using the loss of 14 teachers, my calculations would now indicate that each teacher earns $186,347.
• The amended annual budget received at January 29, 2013 finance committee meeting on page 8 — An additional increase to the teachers’ salaries budget line of $206,571 equals a total cut to the teachers’ salaries budget line of $2,402,291. So now we have teachers supposedly earning $171,592.
This budget process information shows that either the district has reduced the teaching staff by far more than they claim or it would appear that the district will have a major deficit at the end of this school year.
It is clear to me that the numbers and figures don’t add up, but the only answer I received at two public finance committee meetings was silence. One has to ask, why? The public deserves to know what is going on, whether it is good news or bad news.
Finally, let me say to our school board and the public that you should be very concerned. When we have an increase in the number of students in our district, we should not be cutting teaching positions and programs/services to students.
You cannot put students first, when you put teachers last.