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Lingering deficit, drop in funding hamper school district

School District 72 is facing budget cuts for the next school year to deal with declining student enrolment.

Going into last week’s board of education meeting, the board was looking at a $759,778 deficit for the 2014/15 school year budget.

Kevin Patrick, secretary-treasurer for SD72, said that was largely based on a loss of provincial funding as well as a deficit from last year.

“We had a funding reduction of $664,000 due to declining enrolment as well as a $398,000 structural deficit from the year before,” Patrick said. “We were able to reduce some of our expenses with needing less teachers because of a reduction in students.”

Still, said Patrick, the reduction in students does not fully offset the loss in funding due to fewer students.

So the board was forced to make cuts to its budget last week.

The board was aided by SD72 staff who prepared a list of proposed cost-savings taking into account feedback received through consultations with the Campbell River District Teachers’ Association, CUPE, the Campbell River Principals’ and Vice-Principals’ Association, and district management.

The board chose to reduce funds for long-term sick coverage for teaching staff by $100,000 which reflects historical usage, as well as cut $15,000 in administrative expenses for the district’s international program. Patrick said the reduction will not affect recruitment and the district is expected to increase the number of international students studying in Campbell River. The board also approved $60,778 in partial staff reductions in student services, management and a district non-enrolling teacher position.

“There will be a reduction of two positions but there won’t be any layoffs,” Patrick said. “We’re just taking small portions or re-allocating staff.”

To round out its list of cost-cutting measures, the board also approved cutting $2,000 for food at meetings as well as a savings of $1,000 in cable vision, as cable feeds in all schools will end.

Patrick said schools will have to make a choice if they want cable access.

“If schools need it they will have to sign up for digital cable or they could access cable through Internet streaming,” Patrick said. “We’ll have to wait and see what happens.”

Following the cuts, the board also applied $566,000 from an unrestricted surplus as well as an operational reduction of $193,778 to eliminate the deficit.

The board may look at increasing its rental fees for school facilities as well as the potential to increase lease revenue through attracting new tenants.

The preliminary annual operating budget for 2014/2015 will be brought to the next public board meeting on May 20 for potential adoption. The school district has until June 30 to submit its final budget to the province.

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