Balanced budget for North Okanagan School District #83 approved at May 15 meeting. -File photo

More teaching time, support in school budget

Trustee: Recommendations aligned with priorities for student learning and sustainability

For the first time in many years, the North Okanagan-Shuswap School District has produced a balanced budget.

A budget of $74.8 million was given three readings and approval by official trustee Mike McKay at the May 15 school board meeting in Salmon Arm.

The amount includes the operating budget of just over $61 million as well as capital and special purpose funds.

McKay pointed out that budget recommendations are always aligned with priorities for student learning and those that will be sustainable over time.

“We’re not putting anything on the table that will be removed next year,” he said.

Secretary-treasurer Nicole Bittante said the school district has worked to have an open budget development process that promotes awareness, consultation and two-way communication.

Chaired by McKay, the budget committee included representatives from district management, principals and vice-principals, aboriginal education, CUPE, NOSTA, DPAC and students.

The line-by-line look at the budget also included input from staff and the public at a public budget meeting.

Bittante noted that, for the first time in many years, the district was in a position where it did not have to cut items in order to produce a balanced budget.

After meeting all obligations and addressing additional cost pressures for areas out of the district’s control, such as benefits and utilities, the district had about $800,000 to spend.

Bittante said district priorities are numeracy, literacy and health and wellness.

After looking at a long list of “wants and needs” the following recommendations were brought to McKay and received approval:

• Speech language pathologist – increase of .3 FTE. (full-time equivalent) to address current wait times at a cost of approximately $29,130.

• Inclusive Support Programs – increase of .5 FTE teacher to support A.L. Fortune Secondary and a 0.5 FTE teacher to support Len Wood Middle School at a cost of approximately $97,100.

• Storefront School – reduction to supply budget of $10,000, based on review of current year and prior year spending.

• Behaviour consultant – approximately $97,100 for the addition of one FTE behaviour consultant to support non-ISP schools.

• Literacy program – the addition of 0.8 FTE literacy intervention teacher at a cost of approximately $77,680.

• Numeracy Program – the addition of 0.8 FTE numeracy program teacher will result in an increase in costs of approximately $77,680.

Another $4,622 will provide ongoing support and resources for the numeracy program. Savings of about $20,000 in teaching time in the music program will be made by re-allocating resources.

Approximately $8,000 and reconfiguration of Eagle River Secondary to include Grade 7 will result in an increase in prep time for teachers.

Eagle River will require additional resources to address social and emotional growth issues related to younger students attending high school.

The budget also includes the addition of $50,000 annually to support the district technology plan and lease laptops for teachers and an annual transfer of $200,000 to Local Capital to support a sustainable technology plan in the district.

In approving the annual budget bylaw, McKay thanked all the partner groups and staff in developing a budget framework that moved the district in a positive direction.

“I think this budget demonstrates a coherent and sensible approach to supporting programs and services,” said McKay.

Supt. Glenn Borthistle added his thanks and appreciation, especially for members of the finance department.

“I think we took some big steps forward in the budget development process,” he said.

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