School district struggles to bring in balanced budget

School District 27 staff and trustees are making some headway in finding approximately $1.6 million in savings to bring in a balanced budget for the 2014/15 school year by the June 15 deadline.

In a report to the board April 29 Secretary Treasurer Kevin Futcher outlined some of the financial stresses facing the district and the review of where district staff have been working to achieve cost savings.

So far Futcher said they have found a total of $736,000 in savings: $173,000 by cancelling the balanced calendar program at Cataline Elementary school; $350,000 in other program reductions; and $213,000 in reduced administration costs.

Cancelling the balanced calendar program is expected to save $164,000 in staffing costs and $9,000 in busing costs.

Superintendent Mark Thiessen said the district will not elaborate on where the other program and administration savings will be until the proposals have been discussed with the staff involved. Even with the measures explored to date, Futcher said the district is still facing a shortfall of approximately $900,000 on its 2014/15 budget. It is expected that the remaining shortfall will be addressed through more budget reductions and utilizing accumulated surpluses.

The district is currently facing a structural deficit of $188,000 and a funding reduction of $800,000 next year due to falling student enrolment and partial elimination of funding protection from the Ministry of Education.

School operating costs are based on student enrolment. Student enrolment in the district for September 2013 was 4,833 and is expected to drop to approximately 4,600 students in September.

At the same time the district is facing increased costs for the new contract with district support workers that will cost the district an additional $455,000.

The Ministry of Education has indicated that no additional funding would be available to districts to cover these contract obligations.

Last month the school trustees issued notice that they would not be closing any more schools to address this year’s deficit but are looking at other ways to save on operating costs.

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