SD20 presents budget draft

Budget cuts, and even some potential revenues, were the topic of discussion at Wednesday night’s presentation.

Budget cuts, and even some potential revenues, were the topic of discussion at Wednesday night’s School District 20 (SD20) public draft budget presentation.

Only 12 parents, CUPE employees and Parent Advisory Council representatives gathered in the gym at the Kootenay Columbia Learning Centre to ask questions and add their comments about cuts that needed to be made for the school district to remain in the black.

District Superintendent, Greg Luterbach, started by presenting the audience with a look at previous drafts and additions to where cuts could be made, “outside of the classroom,” otherwise known as administrative savings. The resulting budget, after $691,256 in cuts, would leave the district with an extra $1,745 out of a $36 million budget.

Ideas looked at by the board included reducing custodial hours, counseling staff, adding bulk supply purchasing, and more.

One of the line items in the presentation showed the hiring of a new vice principal at Twin Rivers Elementary in Castlegar. The new hire will save money in salary payouts once the current principal retires.

“When we amalgamated Twin Rivers and Castlegar Primary, both had principals,” said Luterbach, adding that when the schools came together, one of the principals became a vice principal, and was paid a principal’s salary.

“Now that the (principal) is retiring and the (vice principal) is moving up, when we hire a new vice principal at Twin Rivers, they will get paid at the lower elementary vice principals salary, which saves us just over $8,000.”

Local CUPE president, Roger Smith, asked trustees and district staff whether hiring a new vice principal would cost more than appointing a head teacher, adding potentially more savings to the budget.

“Instead of having a vice principal put in to replace the current one, has the board thought of hiring a head teacher?” he asked. “I don’t know if there would be a savings, but it could be another option.”

Luterbach spoke to the question, letting Smith and the audience, know the option had been looked at, but didn’t suit the needs of the population at the elementary school.

Not all of the presentation dealt with cuts, however. Luterbach brought up different ways for the school district to pick up some extra dollars throughout the school year.

According to board calculations, there could be an extra $10,000 per school year added as revenue if the district started charging more for community groups and teams to use their facilities outside of school hours.

“This one has continued to be a struggle for us,” he said, adding that two years ago, the district added a one-time $30 administrative fee to all room and gym rentals. “We added that fee and it didn’t generate a lot. Then we looked closer and we realized that our challenge is that our current policy states that if the renter is non-profit and there are school-age kids involved, you get the room or gym for free.”

Rebecca McDonnel, chair of the District Parent Advisory Council (DPAC) shared some personal experiences demonstrating why charging non-profits to use district facilities may not work.

“A lot of non-profits can’t afford to pay rent in our schools,” she said during the question period of the presentation, adding that at the Blueberry Creek school building, once a rental fee was put in place, non-profits stopped using the facilities. “I appreciate that you are doing some revenue generation, but when we started charging rental fees (at Blueberry) people stopped using as a meeting space. Is that $10,000 actually realistic?”

Board members say the number is just an estimate for possible revenues.

The next step in budget talks for the district is a private stakeholders meeting on April 20. The Kootenay Columbia Teachers Union, DPAC and CUPE will be given a chance to make a formal presentation to the board with suggestions on cuts or revenue generation.

The first reading of the final draft of the budget is on April 27 during a regular board meeting. On May 1, the board will hold an open meeting for the third and final reading of the budget bylaw.

For an in-depth look at the cuts proposed to the 2015/2016 school budget, visit www.sd20.bc.ca.