The District Parents Advisory Council has come up with its own ideas for making the $1.8 million cuts needed to balance the North Okanagan-Shuswap School District’s budget.
“Parents have had enough,” said Kari Wilkinson, DPAC president.
Upset about the school district’s proposed budget cuts, the DPAC decided to present its own version to school district trustees and administration at a meeting last week.
“I think it’s fair to say the reaction included raised eyebrows and ruffled feathers,” said Wilkinson.
Glenn Borthistle, district superintendent, says the board values the public input it has received, both in meetings with the DPAC and the various employee groups, as well as the response from parents and the general public in the form of letters or phone calls.
“We have received a lot of feedback and a lot of fair comment. The district and board will be reviewing all the submissions as part of our budget process which will continue right up to the meeting on May 12.”
That is the date when the school board is expected to vote on the final budget options. Currently, more cuts have been suggested than needed, so some of the proposed cutbacks will be reinstated in this year’s budget.
The school district’s proposed reductions to the 2015/2016 budget include cutting student services such as literacy intervention, music, speech and language support, services for deaf and hard-of-hearing students and eliminating the gifted education program. Significant cuts to counselling, grief counselling and healthy living programs are also outlined.
“Our position is that if there is not enough money for learning resources, grief counselling, mental health, then we need to be cutting right from the top — employee expenses for travel, professional development, all those things should be going down if we are in such dire straits that we have to cut programs that have direct benefits to students,” said Wilkinson.
The DPAC report notes the district enrolment decline should also mean a decline in management and administrative hours at the board office.
The DPAC would like more information on how administrative staffing levels relate to the declining enrolment.
Borthistle says administration costs for the district are not out of line.
“Administration costs are four per cent of our total budget, which is very comparable with other school districts of similar size in our province.”
He also notes the provincial government is already requiring cuts to school administration that will mean a $360,000 reduction for North Okanagan-Shuswap School District administration.
“We are looking at ways to meet those targets,” he said.