School District 72 may be forced to make cuts that could reduce the amount of teachers and support staff in schools in order to erase a $1.1 million deficit.
Cutting back on elementary school teachers in music and library programs is one option the district is looking at which would save $75,000 for each program, according to a budget report.
The district is in the red because of cost pressures which Peter Neale, school district secretary-treasurer, said are out of the school district’s control, such as a $335,000 rise in pension payments and soaring fuel and hydro costs.
The district needs to come up with a substantial amount of savings in the special needs program because it is losing $300,000 in special needs funding from the province next year due to a decline in students in the program.
To make up for the loss, the district is also looking at making $37,500 in teacher cuts in special education programs at elementary schools.
It could also decide to restrict special education students in middle and high school from going on field trips in order to save $25,000 in staffing for special needs bussing.
Another option is to reduce the amount of assistant staffing and district teacher staffing in special education, primarily related to workshops in the gifted program for high achieving students.
That would save the school district $84,000 and $45,000 respectively.
Neale said in previous years, operational cuts were made to areas other than instruction but this year the district is hard pressed to continue in that vein.
“As approximately 80 per cent of the budget is instruction, and of this approximately 94 per cent is staffing, it is a challenge to form a strategy that would continue to see reductions in areas other than staffing in the instruction function,” said Neale.
“Feedback suggests that internal stakeholders recognize this and would like the board of education to consider strategies that maintain services to students and to make decisions that would have the least impact on students.”
Most of the conversations he has had with stakeholders have focused on coming up with strategies for minor reductions rather than completely eliminating services.
Cutting back on school staff is also being considered by the district, including casual custodian staff – a savings of $78,000 – and operations and maintenance staff, a $70,000 reduction.
The district is also floating the possibility of directing all staff to take vacation time in lieu of pay for overtime hours to minimize the payment of accrued time.
A board meeting to hear submissions and presentations from the public regarding the budget takes place Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the school board office, 425 Pinecrest Rd.