The Comox Valley School District needs to trim $2.2 million from its 2015/16 budget — as it did for this school year.
For 2016/17, it’s facing a further a $1.8 million shortfall, though SD71 secretary-treasurer Russell Horswill wouldn’t be surprised if that number turns out to be $2.2 million as well.
“That’s what we’re struggling with right now,” Horswill said at a public information session Wednesday. “Last year was the first really difficult budget. Getting into the $2 million range was unpleasant for us.”
A $1.1 million shortfall is expected for 2017/18.
“This is what the board calls an ugly budget,” said trustee/finance committee chair Peter Coleman, noting the problem of declining enrolment.
SD71 declined 227 students last September and projects to be down 60 students this September. Last year’s drop was attributed to a large Grade 12 class leaving the system and a smaller kindergarten class coming in. The district hopes the shrinking enrolment issue levels off in the near future.
Staff reductions for the 2015/16 budget total 20.36 FTE (full-time equivalent), with teaching staff comprising 12.39. Two painters and a plumber will also lose jobs.
Proposed reductions in program support for the coming school year total $476,907. A restructuring of Band 7 and Music 7 accounts for $75,000, meaning fewer Grade 7 students will be taking band. Revenue from the money-making International Student Program accounts for a further $75,000. Nearly $50,000 was saved in a reorganization at Cumberland Community School. The biggest saving came by combining two school libraries into one, which means one less library clerk is required. As well, two head custodians are no longer required, which doesn’t translate into a layoff but a reduced premium paid to employees.
Special education busing and mail delivery faces a reduction of nearly $72,000. A part-time person will be dedicated to mail delivery. Savings will come by not running, fuelling and maintaining buses, but it also means a reduced internal mail delivery service.
“That’s a difficult one,” Horswill said. “Those are good people.”
Educational program reductions exceed $1.1 million. Pending budget approval by the school board, student services will drop by $389,270, which includes counsellors, speech language pathologists and others. The total FTE reduction is 4.15. Reductions also include secondary school librarians ($164,150), career programs ($103,180) and secondary pupil-teacher ratio ($477,807).
“The board is not happy doing these (cuts),” Horswill said. “Nobody likes it.”
Removing a senior science lab support position ($24,890) was unpopular with the crowd. One person said the move is contrary to the school board’s guiding principles to support student success and to foster learning. Another said the job entails more than glass washing. It also involves a safety element. Horswill said schools need to prioritize where funds are going. He also noted a monthly investment into health and safety, which is overseen by Paul Berry, a district principal.
Next year’s administrative reductions are nearly $620,000. The budget also includes additions in leave protocol/school supervision ($35,991) and library clerk support ($20,995).
“Reductions this year are less about people than last year,” Horswill said.
The budget consultation process has involved senior administrators and principals, the finance committee, and members of CUPE, the Comox District Teachers’ Association (CDTA) and the local District Parent Advisory Council (DPAC).
The target date for budget adoption is May 26.