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District 73 still counts on avoiding job cuts

School board votes on budget at meeting in Savona
May 9, 2016 10:19 A.M.

Kamloops-Thompson school board is prepared to meet the test of a balanced budget with its Monday, April 9, vote but hopes to avoid the need to eliminate positions.

“There will be some positions eliminated, but that’s more to do with declining enrolment,” said board chairwoman Denise Harper.

The district has yet to get a firm figure on retirements, which will have a significant impact on managing the cuts, Harper noted. 

As well, projected enrolment declines are often offset as new students show up for school in September. That factor may be more significant this year due to the migration of displaced workers from Alberta.

“We’re fairly confident that by the end of September roles around, everybody will have a position,” Harper said.

The board has to shave $2.45 million from its 2016-2017 operating budget, including a $1.4-million reduction in administrative costs. Despite the cuts, administrative staff have been told to maintain class sizes and programs, student supports including those for special needs kids, specialty teaching and custodial services. This has meant asking staff to trim their budgets across the board and they’ve seen a solid effort in that, Harper said.

“It’s a joint effort districtwide and everyone works on it. It takes a lot of work and it’s painful.”

Instead, the board has been considering job cuts — 14.9 teaching positions, two principal positions and 3.15 support staff. That’s 25.8 in all, about the equivalent of one fully staffed school. However, the expectations has been that most if not all of the job cuts could be managed through attrition.

Kamloops Thompson Teachers Association and CUPE Local 3500 have maintained throughout the fiscal balancing process that the necessary cuts would be possible without eliminating as many jobs.

David Komljenovic, KTTA president, said Monday that the board could tap into a travel/training budget as well as its surplus budget to make up for the shortfall. He suggested the district is going beyond what’s necessary to arrive at a balanced budget.

“They’re trying to reduce more than necessary and that causes unnecessary disruptions,” Komljenovic said. "My hope is that they're looking at those two budgets and can perhaps reduce the number of teaching staff they're looking at cutting."

There are implications for programs, Komljenovic said. As examples, he cited two NorKam trades programs, training for beauticians and chefs, that would have to be eliminated next school year. The teaching positions involved have been designated as surplus.

"The loss of those two programs would be devastating for students who need them for moving on in life," he said.

Harper said the Vancouver School District — which recently voted down a balanced budget that would have meant program, service and staff cuts — has shot itself in the foot by sticking with a neighbourhood school model. With enrolment decline, that results in inefficient use of resources.

Kamloops-Thompson district made hard decisions in 2010 to close schools and is in a much better position as a result, she said.

The budget vote comes at the board’s regular meeting, which happens to be taking place in Savona, part of its routine rotation of meetings around the district.

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