The axe has dropped in the North Okanagan-Shuswap School District.
Trustees slashed programs and staff positions Tuesday to address a $1.8 million shortfall for the coming school year.
“It’s always difficult when you are having to cut money,” said Laurie Myers, Armstrong trustee.
Principal and vice-principal time will be reduced so they can teach more and there will be 12 teachers lost as a result of dropping enrolment.
All supply budgets will be trimmed.
Storefront schools in Salmon Arm, Armstrong, Enderby and Sicamous are also being restructured.
Storefront schools, which assist adult learners, were targeted because of rising costs and a decline in students.
“Hopefully in the next year or so, these numbers will increase so we can again afford to add to the program,” said Bobbi Johnston, chairperson.
A financial analysis indicates that storefront, adult, continuing education programs are operating with a $520,000 deficit.
“It’s an important part of the community but it’s not in our kindergarten to Grade 12 mandate,” said Myers.
A major factor in the overall budget is the continuing trend of decreased enrolment.
Enrolment is anticipated to drop about 240 students per year for the next four or five years. The district’s student population has shrunk by 25 per cent in the last decade.
“When (provincial) funding is attached to students and there is less of them, you get less money,” said Chris Coers, Enderby trustee.
Declining enrolment is a result of aging demographics, says Falkland trustee Debbie Evans.
“There are only a few districts in B.C. seeing increases and that’s where there is employment growth and families moving in,” she said.
District revenue is expected to drop by $1.32 million and costs will climb by $531,000.
Coers says there is no provincial assistance to help with inflationary demands such as fuel, electricity and employee benefits.
“We have to come up with additional money to fund those.”
Trustees will continue to look at the 2013/14 budget prior to it being formally adopted May 14.
With deficits becoming an annual situation, Coers says the district has contacted the Ministry of Education and warned that program delivery is at risk.
“We have done what we can with efficiencies,” she said.
The North Okanagan-Shuswap Teachers Association believes there were some budget options overlooked by the district.
“Very few districts have nine trustees and, with declining enrolment, trustees need to look at the costs associated with the two extra trustees in terms of actual salary and costs of travel and conferences,” said Lynda Bennett, NOSTA president.
“Our district has a higher proportion of administrators to teachers; in other words, other districts manage with less administrators. To have principals and vice principals taking on teacher work is not a huge cost savings – more would be saved by decreasing the number of administrators.”
Salmon Arm Observer