Secretary-treasurer Kevin Patrick delivers the budget news at the May 29 board of education meeting. Photo by Mike Chouinard/Campbell River Mirror

Campbell River expects school enrolment increase

District will still need reserves to balance budget

School District is forecasting a bit of bump to its enrolment numbers for next year.

The projection by staff came up during a discussion at the May 29 board meeting on the preliminary budget for the coming school year. School districts have to submit a balanced budget to the Ministry of Education for the year ahead by the end of June.

The budget document distributed before trustees at the board of education meeting indicated the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) students should be 5,509.625, a growth of almost 132 FTEs from the 2018 level of 5,378.

“We actually were able to forecast an increase of students,” secretary-treasurer Kevin Patrick told trustees. “Our school-age FTE is getting back up.”

The district has been holding discussions on the budget this spring with stakeholders including staff, parent advisory councils and others. The budget function committee includes representatives from the Campbell River District Teachers’ Association, CUPE Local 723, the Campbell River Principals’ and Vice-Principals’ Association and district management.

“This is the culmination of a whole bunch of work from a number of different groups,” Patrick told the board. “We compile all that and put it into our final budget.”

While the growth in enrolment comes as some good news, it also brings costs with it, especially in terms of the need for more staff.

“When we get additional students, we get the extra money, but we also have to increase salaries for teachers,” Patrick said.

For the coming year, the district has projected a deficit of $735,264. As districts must pass a balanced budget, School District No. 72 will use money from previous years’ surplus or “unrestricted reserves.”

“When you compared the revenue with expenses, we are showing a deficit,” Patrick said.

At the most recent board meeting, the document actually suggested a larger deficit—specifically an additional $857,129—to bring the total to approximately $1.5 million.

“It really doubles the deficit,” Patrick said.

This is money for regular operating expenses though. To fulfill requirements from the Supreme Court of Canada decision a couple of years ago around contract language, the Ministry of Education has earmarked money for a classroom enhancement fund.

“They gave it to the boards and said it had to be in a special purpose fund,” Patrick said.

At the time of last week’s meeting, 20 per cent was still being held back, resulting in a temporary hole from the operating budget for the district. The ministry should apparently release the money later to cover the additional gap temporarily showing in the operating budget.

“We have been told that we will get that,” Patrick added.

Trustee Daryl Hagen wanted to confirm that this did not represent money for which the district would be “out of pocket” as the budget does not cover money already spent. Patrick was able to confirm this.

The district is also adding some funding for extra programs or support this year: $10,000 addition for kindergarten transition, $80,000 addition for 1.0 FTE painter and $20,000 addition for Truth and Reconciliation planning.

Following discussion, the board unanimously passed the budget bylaw totalling $67,287,510. The bulk, approximately $56.7 million, lies in the operating budget, with another roughly $4.7 million set aside for capital projects and $5.8 million for a special purpose fund covering targeted programs that are not at the discretion of the board.