The board of education passed next year’s preliminary budget this week and it sees them drawing on their unrestricted surplus yet again to cover all of the district’s expenses.
“The operating deficit is $754,000, which we’re proposing will come out of the unrestricted surplus,” district Secretary-Treasurer Kevin Patrick said in presenting the budget. There is also a capital deficit of $576,000, meaning when everything is added up, the district will run a net deficit of $1.3 million next year.
“It’s managable,” Patrick says. “The board has a healthy unrestricted balance that it is drawing on again to use for this next school year, but it’s well within a healthy operating amount.”
Some new things in the budget next year include a $25,000 addition for continued implementation of Hour Zero emergency response training, $15,000 for increased health and wellness supports, $20,000 to expand kindergarten transition programs and $15,000 to expand counselling offerings at Robron Centre.
The board will also transfer $200,000 out of their operating funds into a Local Capital fund, which they do most years. Patrick says this is necessary to purchase small equipment for mainenance crews and allows schools to make small equipment purchases over the course of the year that are not funded by government grants.
Trustee Darryl Hagen thanked Patrick for all the work put into creating the budget and praised the transparency of the process.
“There’s no one here tonight, and I think that says something that people are pleased – or at least satisfied – that things are going okay, because in the past it’s been a different story,” Hagen said. “This room has been plugged full of people worried about where the money was going to come from and what kind of cuts were coming that would affect their children in the classroom,” and thanked staff for having an “open and transparent process,” so people know they have a say in how the district’s money gets spent.
Trustee Ted Foster asked Patrick how the recent Supreme Court of Canada decision surrounding class size limits affected the budget. Patrick responded that all costs associated with that decision will be covered by the province, so all increased expenses should result in equivalent increased funding – at least in theory.
“The hope is that all the additional costs required will be covered,” Patrick said. “I have submitted applications for the furniture and equipment that we’ll need, as well as renovations. I’ve submitted the application for staffing. The question is whether or not we get approved. I haven’t heard yet.”
“It seems to me that although we do have more money coming in because of the Supreme Court Decision – which basically forced the government to reinstate the language from 2002 – but it seems to me that it’s going directly to staffing, and we still seem to be running a deficit in our operational budget in spite of that,” Trustee John Kerr said, before asking the secretary-treasurer, “do you see any relief from us running a $750,000 to $800,000 deficits every year?”
“Right now the only relief would be an increase in student enrolment,” Patrick responded. “Costs just keep going up and any new funding that the Ministry (of Education) provides is all targeted. It’s not targeted for costs that have gone up 15 per cent over the last five years, it’s for the board to purchase new things. There is some benefit from these new programs, but no, there has not been anything that has come to offset the rising costs that would assist with reducing the deficit. It’s an ongoing battle every year.”