Parents in B.C.'s North Okanagan-Shuswap region are criticizing the local school district for the transfer of operating budget surplus to the building of a new administrative building.

Salmon Arm parent and teacher Noah Ralston uncovered $10.5 million over five years of transfers by looking at the school district's financial documents, which are posted on its website.

This discovery comes shortly after the district announced it was considering closing two rural schools to make up for funding cuts from the provincial government. Those schools have been taken off the chopping block for now.

"For years now we've heard the message the capital budget and the operating budgets are two totally separate budgets," said Ralston.

He said the district told parents, "all these operate budget cuts we're facing, it's because we don't have enough money."

Where does surplus funding go?

The school district confirmed to CBC that the transferred funds were used for capital projects, such as the new administration building.

Operational funds pay for teachers' wages, support staff and programs.

The parents advisory council (PAC) says it wants to see that money go toward their children's education.

"We were just deeply disappointed. Those operating funds could have been reserved for programming and student support and those monies are now gone," said Kari Wilkinson, president of the district's PAC.

But the school district says it doesn't make sense to put surplus funds from this year's operational budget into next year's budget because it would create a structural deficit that will hurt the district in future years.

"If you use surplus money to support operating budget in the next year, it just means that you create a double deficit," said Glenn Borthistle, North Okanagan-Shuswap Superintendent.

Funding shortage

Ralston says although the transfers are "upsetting," parents are aware of the crunch the school district faces.

"I understand the situation that they're in. Their cost pressures are increasing, the government is not keeping up with their costs," he said.  

"So I get the pressures they're under, but I really think they dropped the ball on handling these transfers and doing these transfers in the first place."

With files from CBC Radio's Daybreak South

To listen to the full interview, click the link labelled: Parents upset over school district using operational surplus for new building.