By Dale Bass
Kamloops This Week
The Kamloops-Thompson school district expects it will be down 14 full-time equivalent staff when the 2015-2016 year begins. While still in a draft format, the district has a balanced budget that will meet the spending cuts mandated by the provincial government, continue with existing class sizes and student-teacher ratios, not impact programming and continue to implement new programming ordered by the Ministry of Education.
Looking at only the operating budget – the financial document dependent on government funding, but also one where reductions are being demanded by the government – the staff reduction comes to 20.2 positions, most of them teaching staff.
However, a separate government pot of money, the Learning Improvement Fund, will see six full-time equivalent teaching staff added and assigned to schools identified by the district and the Kamloops-Thompson Teachers’ Association as needing extra staff to improve class size and provide additional support for students with special needs.
School District 73 secretarytreasurer Kelvin Stretch, who presented the draft budget on April 21, said those schools will be identified after each presents proposals that will be reviewed and prioritized by administration and the teachers’ union.
While meeting the funding cuts was a challenge, it was exacerbated by the drop in enrolment, said superintendent Karl deBruijn. Forecasts to date predict 386 fewer students in the district in September, which means more than $2.7 million in student funding not coming into the district. Administration cuts had to total $786,000.
DeBruijn noted it would be easier to adapt and make the necessary budget cuts if all the students attended one school – administration could simply close the school, reduce the staffing levels and ease the challenge.
Stretch pointed out projected revenue for the next school year is up more than $2 million from last year, but the increased wages and benefits cost negotiated last year for teachers will cost the district another $3 million.
In order to arrive at a balanced budget, a legislative requirement, the district will dip into a reserve fund.
While the budget discussions included input from unions representing teachers and support staff, parents and guardians of students – and students themselves – as well as other community members, the district is looking for more input, now that the preliminary budget has been made public.
Written submissions were accepted until last Monday. The budget will be presented to MLAs Terry Lake and Todd Stone on May 1 and then brought back to trustees for adoption on May 11.