Campbell River School District looks over budget, but it’s not

At first glance it looks like Campbell River's school district is a half a million dollars over budget already this year

If you were to just look at the spreadsheet shared at this week’s public meeting of the Campbell River School District (SD72) Board of Education, you’d think they are running almost a half million dollars over budget.

But according to Secretary-Treasurer Kevin Patrick, that’s just because the first few months of every school year is always the most expensive stretch, so the first quarter financial report always looks like that.

After all, most of the revenue and expense numbers are pretty close to where they were budgeted to be at this point, other than for things like “services and supplies,” Patrick says.

“A lot of programs and maintenance will do a lot of their work in the summer time,” Patrick told the board Tuesday night in explaining the numbers. “Even though we’ve budgeted it across the year, a lot of those expenses and purchases are done at the beginning of the school year or in summer.”

So while the number beside “Supplies” under the “Instruction” section of the report is currently over budget by $388,101, that’s because the year’s total budget for instructional supplies – $2.3 million – mostly gets spent at the beginning of the year to get ready for school opening, while the “Budget Year To Date” that those expenses are being compared to is simply one quarter of the annual budget for supplies.

“We’ll see, over the course of the year, that variance gets less and less,” Patrick says.

The reason the discrepancy exists at all is because while it’s easy to break expenses like those down into monthly – or quarterly – amounts, because they are pretty consistent month to month, “the one that’s hard for us to adjust a budget for is in supply spending,” because that’s not a consistent expense, Patrick says.

To imagine it another way, Patrick says, if a school is given $100,000 for supplies for the year, hypothetically, they might spend the majority of that money in the summer getting the school stocked up before opening, but its first quarter budget would actually be $25,000.

Or to put it in even simpler terms, the closer it gets to the end of the school year, the fewer supplies have to be purchased, which is why Patrick says he is “confident that due to the seasonal nature of the first quarter, it will balance out.”