Is keeping both Osoyoos Secondary School and Osoyoos Elementary School worth an extra $9 a month to you?
That’s what our financial wizards suggest Osoyoos and Area “A’ residents would have to pay in additional school taxes to cover the structural deficit the Okanagan-Similkameen School Division says it is facing as it prepares its 2016/17 operating budget.
And it would be a whole lot less than $9 a month if we could have share the burden with other Okanagan-Similkameen residents.
You’ve likely heard the Division is consulting Osoyoos parents in preparation for closing one of the two Osoyoos schools to absorb a $530,000 structural deficit.
Simply put, a structural deficit results from an extended period — in the district’s case, several years — of a public organization having insufficient funding to cover its expenses.
It differs from an operational or budget deficit, which is defined as a public body spending more in a single year than it receives in revenue that year.
To put it in household terms, if you sit down to do the family budget and expect for a couple of months to spend a little more than you make, that’s the equivalent of an operational deficit. If those months start to pile up and you find yourself eating into your savings month after month, that’s a structural deficit.
The Osoyoos Daily News has determined that if each of the 5,071 residential properties in Osoyoos and Area “A” were to pay an extra $105 this year in school taxes, the amount raised would eliminate the District’s structural deficit.
Our calculations suggest if an additional .34 were added to the 2015 Residential School Tax rate — bringing it to 2.9626 from 2.6226 — we could generate an additional $530,293 in revenue for the Division.
Distributed over 5,071 residential properties in Osoyoos and Area “A”, that works out to $105 a property — or $8.75 a month.
Our calculations don’t include other ratepayers living in the Okanagan-Similkameen School District. We felt that since the deficit appears to be an Osoyoos’ problem, we’d take responsibility for it.
However, we’d also like to think our good friends in Oliver, Keremeos, Cawston and Okanagan Falls would want to contribute.
If we share the $530,000 deficit among all taxpayers from Okanagan Falls through to Keremeos and Cawston, the cost per household drops to just $41.82 — or $3.49 a month. That’s an increase to the school tax rate of .148, taking it to 2.7706 from 2.6226.
The increase might be minor, but the process of securing it is a major headache.
School tax rates are established by the province. Except for lobbying its MLA — and other politicians in Victoria — the local community has no control over what the residential school tax rate will be. According to the Ministry of Education, school tax rates are set once a year, on or before May 4.
The School Act does include language that allows a local school district to hold a referendum to raise additional funding, but that funding must be used by a board to provide new programs, to enhance existing programs for additional activities for students or for local capital project initiatives.
It cannot be used to fund operating deficits.
When contacted, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Education suggested “boards have not been successful in the very few referenda held.”