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Northwestern B.C. school district faces cuts

Total could reach $ 1million for Coast Mountains School District

Along with the ongoing decline in enrolment, the Coast Mountains School District is now facing a $1-million reduction from the Ministry of Education.

The budget process is in its very early stages and will not be finalized until June, but the early numbers show they have to deal with some significant cuts.

School district secretary-treasurer Alanna Cameron says that just over $700,000 of that $1-million drop is directly due to declining enrolment.

But the ministry does provide a financial cushion as the school district’s enrolment goes down.

“They have funding protection to bridge us so that we are let down slowly and have some time to accommodate those reductions… they top us up,” said Cameron.

“We are guaranteed to receive a minimum of 98.5 per cent of the prior year’s base funding… So $700,000 of the million [overall funding reduction] is that 1.5 percent reduction [due to enrolment].”

The other $300,000 is administrative savings which the ministry requires as part of a province-wide cost reduction effort affecting all school districts.

Superintendent Katherine McIntosh said it is too early in the budget process to say how the district plans to make those savings, but that administrators are trying to avoid staffing cuts.

“It’s never easy to find where to make the cuts from,” she said.

“We try to stay away from personnel as much as possible. We look at everything but that.”

Cameron agreed.

“We’re bare bones with staffing. We are all working as hard as we possibly can,” she said.

“Unless student numbers go down in which case we would directly reduce our staffing around students only in the same ratio, we look for administrative cuts everywhere else,” said Cameron.

“As far as personnel, we have gone about as skinny as we can get. We need to find efficiencies in other areas and we are working on that,” she said.

The same administrative savings, ($299,817), were required last year, and Cameron said 80 per cent of those savings were made through bus costs.

The school district signed a five-year busing contract with Diversified Transportation, rather than renew a contract with First Canada ULC.