Numbers will tell the story

Resident wants financial details from the North Okanagan-Shuswap School District

Financial constraints are a fact of life and it serves no useful purpose to gloss over them and be impractical. Similarly, fiscal responsibility involves both short-term and long-term planning.

Ask any number of families and businesses in our community and they will tell you, with the economy being how it is, they have had to go through their budgets line by line,  and not only reduce existing costs where reasonably possible but also redirect money from one budget category to another. Cash allocated for a home renovation, for example, may need to be redirected in order to cover a shortfall elsewhere.

That being said, it was recently revealed that construction of the new North Okanagan-Shuswap School District head office in Salmon Arm was hundreds of thousands of dollars over budget. This news has understandably not been well received by taxpayers in Armstrong and Spallumcheen, who have been told to prepare for the closure of a school in their community in order for the school district to save money.

Without supplying comprehensive numbers, school district officials are doing their best to convince us that closing Armstrong Elementary is the only sensible thing to do. For all their talk, they have been very slow or reluctant to share relevant figures. They insist that they have done everything within their power to date to save money by adjusting existing expenses in other budget areas, but have yet to provide specific evidence supporting this claim. Parents are still waiting for the board to provide the promised data explaining exactly where efforts have been made to curb administration costs.

These are the same school board officials who came to the town hall meeting at Pleasant Valley Secondary School, and then to a subsequent meeting with Armstrong parents, without specific and pertinent enrolment and financial numbers demonstrating why the closure of an Armstrong school is the best course of action. This behaviour, coupled with the budgetary overrun on the new head office, fails to inspire any confidence in the board’s cost management processes.

If Armstrong Elementary School is not to see its 100th birthday in 2021 as a functional, operational school, then school district officials need to provide far more convincing evidence as to why.

So far, their case has been unpersuasive, and through it all there has been a striking lack of transparency regarding budget and enrolment projection numbers specific to Armstrong.

If the district’s argument for the closure of AES is sound and above reproach financially, it will withstand scrutiny. As a taxpayer, I am requesting  to see the numbers and projections (and by that I mean all the numbers and projections, short-term and long-term) that bring the board to this conclusion.

I am not going to settle for taking a bureaucrat’s or a politician’s word for it. I wish to see, line by line, where every reasonable possible change has been made to the budget already, and notes as to where further adjustments have been or might be considered.

If the need for the closure is as obvious as school district officials like to tell us it is, the numbers will indicate as much.

We deserve absolute transparency.


Melissa Fedorak