With a small surplus projected for the next budget, the board for School District 72 is funding some additions for the coming school year.
At the most recent meeting on Tuesday, the board passed all readings of the preliminary budget, which can now be sent to the Ministry of Education prior to the deadline at the end of June.
Previously, at the May 14 meeting, secretary-treasurer Kevin Patrick provided trustees with an overview of the upcoming annual operating budget, one that presently includes a small surplus of $308,880.
At an earlier meeting this year, he had told the board this was a different situation from years of structural deficits the district faced.
“This year we’ve kind of been in a bit of a different situation where we started the budget process with a surplus, and that has led to a lot more feedback,” he said.
During discussions earlier this month, the board had also agreed to draw on previous unrestricted surplus money at the outset of the budget process starting in March, up to $535,000 in addition to the surplus to cover some areas to be funded.
Patrick said the district had received a great deal of feedback during consultations for the preliminary budget, which has to be passed by the board and submitted to the province before the end of June. The school districts then puts together a final budget once they know their operating grant based on enrolment.
“The budget process we changed this year just a little bit,” he said, referring to senior management making recommendations to the board.
He highlighted some recommendations based on feedback through consultations with stakeholders such as the budget function committee and parent representatives. Some common themes from the consultation process included the need to continue replacing furniture, support elders in residence and enhance student supervision and mental health support, an item which was brought up in parent meetings.
“We’re looking at priorities but we also have to weigh some of the risks that we’re facing for this next budget year,” he said.
He explained the year after next, in particular, could be less predictable because of the expected change in the province’s funding formula. This, in turn, could mean cutbacks as well as the risk of running out of surplus.
For now, specific recommendations include: $10,000 for a custodial helper position; $150,000 for contingency for unfunded wage increases; $10,000 for two human resources secretarial positions to move to a 12-month positions; $167,385 to improve custodial service (the equivalent of three positions); $30,000 for Indigenous elders in schools; $50,000 literacy position of .5 FTE; $25,000 for mental health training for staff to support students; $20,000 for a .2 FTE careers position at Robron; and $12,354 for two new student supervision positions.
Previously, the district addressed some operational expenses using surplus funds, but the district has moved toward adding this items to regular ongoing operational expenses, meaning they are to be funded on a continual rather than a one-time basis from surplus. The district lists these as $300,000 for strategic priorities to help with the new strategic plan, $10,000 for critical incidence, $50,000 for furniture renewal and $40,000 for training.
Trustees commended the process of soliciting feedback from stakeholders for the budget.
“When I first came on board, our books were not open to anyone,” said long-time trustee Daryl Hagen.