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School district facing job, course cuts

Budget shortfall totals $2.45 million
April 22, 2016 11:09 A.M.

Kamloops-Thompson school trustees have two weeks to wrestle with a $2.45-million budget shortfall before decision day on May 9.

The deficiency comes as no surprise, the result of a continued decline in enrolment that affects per-student funding from the province, but the necessary cuts will be felt at program levels and particularly in smaller, rural high schools, district superintendent Karl deBruijn said Friday.

School boards are required by law to balance their budgets.

“It’s a manageable challenge,” he said, summing up the draft document presented to school board and the public at a meeting Thursday night. “We’ve done the best we can to ameliorate any negative impact that we could.”

Representatives of teachers and custodial staff maintain there are ways of making up for the shortfall with fewer cuts to personnel than what the draft proposes. The job cuts are roughly the equivalent of having to close an entire school.

A total of 24.8 staff positions will need to be eliminated as part of budget balancing unless school board and others find creative ways of reducing that by cuts in other areas. That figure would include 14.9 teaching positions, two principal positions and 3.15 support staff.

“We’re hoping, of course, that we can deal with this through attrition,” deBruijn said.

That’s not as straightforward as it was a few years ago since many senior teachers have retired, replaced by young ones.

Another challenge is juggling the provision of courses at some secondary schools, where there may be too few students enrolled in a course to cover the cost of instruction. That means fewer course options for students.

Secondary schools in Barriere, Chase and Clearwater have been dealing with the same issue for years and have used video-conferencing and online courses to fill in some of the gaps, deBruijn noted.

People have a chance to digest the draft budget and make suggestions on how it could be tweaked within the next couple of weeks, he added.

Enrolment decline in the district is forecast to level out in coming years, which will serve to stabilize resources.

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