School board appeals to minister

Concern over maintaining quality education while facing a $1.1 million deficit has prompted school district 72 to write a letter to the Minister of Education.

Helen Moates, school board chair, notes in her letter to Minister George Abbott that despite both enrolment decline ($492,00) and funding protection dollars ($508,000) from the provincial government for the 2011/12 budget, the district is still in the red.

“Because we consider the funding protection and enrolment decline monies to be risk funding, we are taking a cautious approach to our longer term fiscal planning,” Moates writes in her letter. “Between the current structural deficit and the unpredictability of future funding,  we are still facing an uphill battle to maintain the delivery of quality public education which school district 72 is so well known for.”

Despite a projected decline in student enrolment next year of 180 kids, the school district will not see a drop in provincial funding from this year because the province has upped per student funding by $44 which means each student in the Campbell River area is worth $6,784 to the school district.

The one-time funding protection also ensures the school district maintains the same funding levels as last year despite less students attending Campbell River area schools.

However, cost pressures “over which we have no control” have contributed to a tough financial situation.

An increase in pension costs ($335,000) and rising fuel costs are both significant factors as is a depleted savings account.

Typically, a school district can dip into its reserves to offset a deficit but school district 72’s contingency fund has been used so frequently in the past couple of years that it is too low to be an option.

Moates’ letter, which is dated March 31,2011, is the second letter the school district has sent to the province this year.

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