The members of the Okanagan Skaha School Board have made some deep cuts in order to address a $1.5 million budget shortfall this year.
The board has dipped into $900,000 in accumulated savings and reserves and has cut another $600,000 from the budget for 2013-2014.
Such measures are disturbing and should serve to show the problems faced by the school trustees.
Using reserve funds and accumulated savings to balance a budget is a risky gambit. Reserves and savings are for capital projects or for expenses outside of the standard operating budget.
Dipping into these funds in order to meet the budget is akin to a family withdrawing from a retirement savings fund in order to pay the day-to-day expenses. Such a move may work for a year or two, but it is not sustainable.
When any government has to use reserve funds in this way, it is a sign of financial trouble in the near future.
The $600,000 in budget cuts is equally disturbing. No matter how much the board attempts to streamline operations, cuts of this amount will have an effect in the classroom.
If the school district was able to set its own tax rate, the problem would be easy to solve. The rate would increase slightly and the budget could be met without making cuts or dipping into reserves.
School boards are not able to set their own tax rates and as a result, the boards are left with the money handed to them from the provincial government.
After using reserves to balance this year’s budget, we wonder if the school board will be able to find ways to handle its next budget if the funding trend continues.
Unless changes are made at the Ministry of Education level, the school board will have to take drastic measures to balance the books — even if such measures affect the quality of education for students.