School districts on the North Shore have been told by the province they must collectively cut more than $1 million in administration costs from their budgets in the next school year and $2 million the year after that.
Both school districts recently got the bad news as part of a provincial order to cut $29 million in school administrative costs across B.C. this year and $54 million the next year.
For the North Vancouver school district, the cut amounts to about $770,000 the first year and $1.5 million the second year, while the smaller West Vancouver school district will have to carve out $330,000 the first year and $760,000 in year two.
Administrators for both school districts say they don’t know where the money will come from.
“It’s a concern to our board,” said West Vancouver superintendent Chris Kennedy. “We weren’t expecting this. It was out of the blue.”
Both school superintendents put current administration costs at between three and four per cent of their total operating costs, which are about $140 million annually in
North Vancouver and $72 million in West Vancouver.
“We’re talking about an area that’s already a very small piece of the budget,” said Kennedy.
School districts first heard the news in the provincial budget last month, when the province announced an increase in education spending of nearly $110 million — but then told trustees they’d have to cut back on administration.
Education Minister Peter Fassbender said at the time school districts should look at saving money by sharing legal and payroll services or pooling resources to buy supplies in bulk. But school administrators say a number of those money-saving measures are already in place.
North Vancouver schools superintendent John Lewis pointed to use of digital media to cut down on paper, targeting energy efficiency to reduce fuel and Hydro costs and delaying hiring of replacement staff as some of the changes that have been made.
Some measures — like combining payroll for school districts with differing staff contracts —are much easier to talk about than they are to put in place, he added.
Kennedy said West Vancouver already buys items ranging from textbooks to computers as part of a bulk purchasing arrangement with other Metro Vancouver school districts.
The school district has also cut bus service, janitorial hours in schools and two management positions, he said.
Kennedy said the perception there are lots of people working in administration for the school district isn’t true. “We only have one person in our payroll department,” he said.
“We have one plumber and one painter and one electrician.”
Kennedy said 85 per cent of the school district’s budget is in labour costs, so, “It’s really hard to find those savings outside of people.
“Beyond the classroom we don’t spend a ton of money.”