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School district $4M short

School District 23 will have to do more with less during the next school year.

The board this week learned its shrinking budget will get even lighter for the 2014-2015 school year -- to the tune of $4M.

"It is frustrating in yet I want to be fair and say that I do understand that the government itself is under incredible pressure," says SD23 Board Chair, Moyra Baxter.

"Health care and education are huge portfolios within the provincial budget and they are increasingly having to find more funds for health care. But it is frustrating for instance when the government negotiates a pay raise with CUPE then tells the board they have to find the money."

Baxter says the $4M shortfall is mainly due to the new CUPE contract negotiated last year, as well as increased MSP and utility costs.

At this week's board meeting, Superintendent Hugh Gloster put forth 10 recommendations aimed at reducing the shortfall.

The main recommendation would see the district reduce the per-pupil amount passed on to schools by $70 per student. This would reduce about $1.3M from the budget.

"The end result is that all schools will share in the challenge to operate with less money," Gloster stated in his report to the board.

"If this reduction was accomplished exclusively by having fewer teachers it would represent 16 less professional staff than are currently employed."

Other recommendations include:

  • $250,000 - Technology budget
  • $50,000 - Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent, Directors discretionary budgets
  • $50,000 - Hollywood Road/Learning Centre
  • $120,000 - Operations department
  • $500,000 - Resource allocations to schools
  • $180,000 - Budget increases for inflation
  • $400,000 - Apply ministry holdback distribution from spring of 2014 to budget
  • $1.2M - Apply 50% of projected ministry holdback to budget
  • $23,000 - Income generated through a 5% increase in rental fees to user groups

The recommendations will be debated at next week's Finance and Legal Committee meeting.

A committee recommendation will be brought before the full board later this month.

Baxter says the 2014-2015 budget must be approved and sent to the ministry by the end of June, however, she says ratification is expected to come much sooner to allow individual schools to plan for next year.

While Baxter is frustrated by the need for more budget cuts she says districts across the province are also concerned about new measures introduced by the government over the past few weeks.

According to Baxter, districts that have an operating surplus will now have to provide up to 50 per cent of the cost of any capital projects in their district.

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