School board chairwoman

Moyra Baxter

The Central Okanagan School District won’t have to close any schools, but it will need to make cuts to get rid of a $3.2-million deficit, says board chairwoman Moyra Baxter.

“We can’t close any schools — we’re at 98 per cent capacity,” said Baxter. “We’ve already done all our school closures a decade ago. In fact, we’re actually at the stage of being short on space. We’re not in the situation of declining enrolment that other school districts have experienced; we’re a growing district.”

The district’s finance committee met Wednesday evening to discuss plans to deal with the anticipated deficit.

“We received some preliminary suggestions from the superintendent on items we could look at, but we did not receive any actual recommendations and we did not make any decisions,” said Baxter.

Discussions included finding ways to increase revenue and also ways to cut costs.

Options to increase revenue included expanding the district’s international education program and increasing school bus fees to $250 a year from $200 a year.

The committee also discussed increasing rental fees for district property by five per cent, said Baxter.

Suggestions from superintendent Kevin Kaardal included cutting less-used school bus routes or routes where public is transit available and reorganizing custodial services in the district.

Another way to cut costs would be to not take inflation into account when distributing money to schools, said Baxter.

“Normally, we estimate the cost of services and supplies to go up by two per cent.”

Instead, schools would receive the same amount of money as in the year before.

The finance committee will meet again on April 20, when Kaardal will present recommendations for the budget.

The budget must be finalized by June 30.

“We would prefer not to be having this conversation at all,” said Baxter. “It’s just very annoying that we have to go through this year after year, it seems, but that’s what we have to do.”

Baxter said she hopes the province will come forward with additional money, but she is not counting on it.

“There’s always a hope that more money will be put into the public education system,” she said.

In the South Okanagan, two Penticton elementary schools, one Summerland elementary school and the only high school in Osoyoos are all set to shut down permanently on June 30 as cost-saving measures.

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