Publisher’s Note: The Osoyoos community in January was told by the Okanagan Similkameen School District that one of its schools — either Osoyoos Secondary School or Osoyoos Elementary School — was targeted for closing as part of a district plan to reduce its structural deficit.
Almost immediately, Robin Stille, a former educator with experience teaching on Haida Gwaii and in the Okanagan Similkameen School District, took it upon herself to conduct an independent analysis of the information delivered by district administration to its School Board. She included numerous questions, requesting Board response.
This week the Osoyoos Daily News will provide segments of that analysis, including the questions posed and responses published by the School District. Our intent is to provide those interested with information with which to better understand the Board proposal and/or prepare additional questions.
Part Two in a Five-part series: See related articles and information
Based on the February 9 presentation, it does not appear that the Board Office is actively pursuing other cost-savings measures. The Board Office’s analysis of supposed cost-savings appears flawed; school trustees have been presented with misinformation and inaccurate numbers.
How can school trustees make such an important decision based on erroneous information?
Increased District administration costs
Based on the school district’s audited financial statements, the so-called reduction of costs in District Administration is erroneous. There have been no savings when one looks at the cost of salaries, benefits and services/supplies.
Between 2010 and 2015, there was a seven-percent increase of costs with regards to total salaries and an 85-percent increase of costs with regards to services and supplies. Overall, there was a 27-percent increase of costs in District Administration between 2010 and 2015. This amounts to cumulative extra costs of $625,974.
While the Board Office will point to the decrease of costs in total salaries in 2016 due to the elimination of the Assistant Superintendent position, these savings have been off-set by the substantial increase of costs in services and supplies. While the 2016 Budget is only 12 percent higher than the actual District Administration costs of 2010, the cost of services and supplies has increased 92 percent. Based on the 2016 Budget, the cumulative extra costs since 2010 will be $734,263.
With regards to services and supplies, the 92-percent increase in the 2016 Budget amounts to an extra $216,959. (In 2010, $236,763 was spent on services and supplies. In 2016, the budget is $453,722.)
The Board Office claims there have been savings due to shared services of the Secretary-Treasurer and the Director of Facilities with another school district; however, these savings are not apparent in the financial statements.
In 2010 when SD53 was not sharing services, the total salaries for District Administration was $551,621. In 2015, with shared services, the total salaries for District Administration was $588,931.
Furthermore, as previously stated, the Board Office has incurred no real savings with the elimination of the Assistant Superintendent position as this money has been used to fund the Network Leaders Program.
Questions to be addressed:
- How does the Board Office justify the 27% increase in District Administration costs in a district with declining enrollment?
- What exactly comprises services and supplies for District Administration and why have these costs increased over $200,000 since 2010?
- Why can’t costs in services and supplies for District Administration be cut in half to save the district $200,000?
- Where are the costs savings associated with the shared services of the Secretary-Treasurer and Director of Facilities?
Published Board response: The district’s senior administration team includes the superintendent, a half-time secretary treasurer and a half-time director of facilities. The assistant superintendent position was eliminated in the spring of 2015.
The annual savings from sharing the [secretary treasurer and director of facilities] positions with School District No. 74 is $146,000. These savings come from $140,000 in salaries and benefits and expenses of $6,000.
- Not all of the increases are district costs; some are related to school expenditures. Expense variances between 2010 and 2015 include:
- $9,500 — elementary school photocopier;
- $42,500 —increase in software costs for financial systems;
- $14,600 — printing costs (previously charged to each school but now paid from district budget;
- $10,000 —meeting furniture for training room in annex;
- $16,500 — increases in insurance, postage, advertising, bank charges, telephone;
- $14,300 — SOSS cafeteria losses after fire;
- $37,000 — purchase of district vehicle to reduce km charges.