Budget cuts threaten CCO

This article appeared in the Auckland City Harbour News on March 13, 2015, by Laura Walters. 

The council-controlled education organisation COMET Auckland is facing a 43 per cent budget cut, which could threaten the group’s existence.

The organisation works as an advocacy group and aims to drive systems change to make education and skills more effective and equitable across Auckland.

COMET is facing a 43 per cent cut to its annual budget under Auckland Council’s proposed Long Term Plan, which would translate to $260,000 less a year.

The organisation currently receives $580,000 in council funding each year and employs 5.4 people.

COMET is already one of the leanest council-controlled organisations, chief executive Susan Warren says.

‘‘We know council needs to make cuts, but the level of cut that has been proposed for COMET Auckland would severely limit our ability to fulfil our role, and longer term, it could threaten our existence altogether.’’

The group is currently leading work on youth employability and Maori language revitalisation, which the council has identified as key focus areas for the city’s economic and social growth, Warren says.

This work would be under threat if the group’s budget was reduced, she says.

Warren will not say whether a budget cut would result in job losses but it is a possibility as the group’s largest cost is wages.

COMET says about 20 per cent of children and young people fail in the education system.

About 36 per cent of Auckland children are behind in reading at the end of their first year of school, Warren says.

Almost a quarter are behind when they start secondary school and about 20 per cent drop out of school before the age of 16.

There are 24,200 young Aucklanders not in education, employment or training, and in the past the council has said it is a barrier to economic development.

They represent 11.4 per cent of the national working age population.

‘‘Our focus is improving education outcomes for the 1 in 5 young people who are not currently well-served by our education system, and now we are asking for some support too,’’ Warren says.

COMET Auckland has made a submission to the council against the budget cut.

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