North Okanagan-Shuswap district comes out swinging
The North Okanagan-Shuswap School District is defending its financial practises.
As part of a process to possibly close Armstrong and Silver Creek elementary schools, the district has been the subject of questions from the public and the media.
“The district has an open and transparent budget process. Every year our district — trustees, central staff, schools and all of our partner groups — develop a budget from the funding that we receive from the government,” says a statement.
“The preliminary and final budgets are discussed in public, approved in public and are then posted on the district website. Year-end financial statements have been audited by the auditor general of B.C. and have also been posted on the district’s website.”
The district insists recent budgets have been developed in anticipation of the end of ministry funding protection.
“Because of conservative budgeting and careful spending, the district has realized surpluses at the end of each year. It is important to note that the board does not budget for surpluses, but the district cannot realize a deficit either,” it states.
“These surpluses have been directed back, for the most part, to the capital fund. This is a practice that has occurred in this district for many years and is common practice in many other districts around the province. The question has been asked about why surpluses were not directed back to support schools and programs. Using surplus funds to support programs and services creates a structural deficit. Surplus funds are one-time money that cannot be relied upon in future years to sustain the system. Using surplus funds only means that those funds will need to be reduced in the following year, thus creating an unsustainable system.”
In 2014, trustees voted to proceed with a capital plan, which included upgrades to the operations office, construction of the district education support centre renovations at Carlin Middle-Elementary School and building a new gym at Len Wood Middle School.
“At the time, there was $5.7 million in the local capital fund. The balance for the remainder of the projects were to come from the sale of surplus properties from around the district,” states the district.
“A new board office replacement building has been planned for at least 15 years with various project plans being reviewed. The new building on school district property serves to combine four different buildings into one, and enables the district to close and sell a number of buildings and properties including South Canoe school, land below Shuswap Middle School, and the former board office.”
The district has $2.6 million in property assets which are either currently for sale or pending sale.
Any money generated by the sale of these properties will be put towards future school projects at Carlin and in Sicamous, states the district.