North Okanagan-Shuswap school trustees are staring another significant budget decline in the face for the upcoming budget year — but they aren’t sure yet how deep the cuts will have to be.
Secretary-treasurer Sterling Olson has warned trustees of a projected budget shortfall of between $1.34 million and $2.79 million for the 2015-2016 budget.
The discrepancy in the projected shortfall depends on whether the negotiated salary increases for teachers will be part of the ministry’s funding formula or in addition to it.
This could make a difference of more than a $1 million to the school district.
As well, there are continued funding pressures from other negotiated salary and benefit increases, MSP premium increases and higher rates for B.C. Hydro. Olson estimates these increases will add $791,000 to the budget.
Continued enrolment declines also impact the school district’s bottom line.
Enrolment in the school district continues to dwindle, as the district was down an additional 50 more students than previously projected.
This school year, the number of students dropped by 153 students from the previous year, continuing the downward trend for enrolment.
Olson noted that enrolment is predicted to drop by about 125 students in the next school year.
Since 2001, the number of students has decreased from 8,175 to 5,866.
Due to the significance of the enrolment decline, the school district continues to be included as part of the Ministry of Education’s funding protection program.
This program ensures a school district does not have their revenue decline by greater than 1.5 per cent from one year to the next and recognizes that a school district may not be able to reduce fixed costs as quickly as enrolment declines would otherwise require.
For example, the costs of heating schools remains the same regardless of whether there are fewer students in the building from one year to the next.