Sd72 hard-pressed to cut costs

Cost-saving in the face of increasing expenses is causing some stress for the Campbell River School District (SD72)

Cost-saving in the face of increasing expenses is causing some stress for the Campbell River School District (SD72).

At last week’s meeting of the board of trustees, the district’s Manager of Operations Steve Woods spoke on the work that they’ve been doing over the past year, highlighting his concern about cost-cutting and efficiency options coming to the end of what is realistically possible. Increases in utility rates and transportation costs are his “worry spots,” he said.

“A lot of the lowest-hanging fruit has been picked,” he said, in terms of cost savings. “Going forward, it’s going to be increasingly challenging to deliver those savings to offset things like rate increases.”

The district re-tendered its fuel purchasing contracts this past spring, according to Woods, from which it should see some savings in transportation costs, but it’s going to be difficult to make more spending cuts to operations and facilities, rates are going nowhere but up, and existing infrastructure continues to age.

With a $1.2-million budget, maintenance and operations is approximately 17 per cent of the SD72 overall budget, last year it went way over that in regards to expenditures, Woods said.

The roof leak on Georgia Park Elementary was a big part of that. Woods said it ended up costing upwards of $230,000 and was a completely unforeseen expense.

It also didn’t help that Robron’s boiler needed to be replaced at a cost of approximately $60,000, Woods told the board.

The seismic upgrades to L’Ecole Phoenix Middle School are almost finished, which means phase one of the seismic upgrades project is almost complete, and puts the district well ahead of many in terms of completing those upgrades. It is also expected to come in well under budget, according to Woods.

He’s hoping to transfer those savings into developing the Pinecrest Elementary seismic upgrade plan during phase two of the district’s upgrades, and cover the cost of that project.

The board commended Woods on all his team’s work creating cost-saving and long-term sustainability measures, using SD72’s win at the Campbell River Chamber of Commerce Business Awards of Distinction for Environmental Sustainability to highlight his efforts.

“He is certainly a huge part of that award,” said board Chair Michele Babchuck. “Although the school district itself and the board has put policies and initiatives in place through the strategic planning process, it is the work of gentlemen like Mr. Woods that bring those home.”

As an aside, SD72 also took home the award for Diversity Leadership at the Business Awards of Distinction held Sept. 27 at the Tidemark Theatre.

“I believe it was the work of the last board, under the chair of Helen Moats, that put the diversity policy into place that has infiltrated through our whole organization,” Babchuck said, “and it’s because of our senior management and staff members that live within our organization. I could not be any more proud to stand up there and accept those two awards on behalf of our school district.”