The school district doesn’t have enough in its reserve fund to cover a projected $1.1 million shortfall.
That means it will have to cut costs and balance the budget rather than be allowed to carry the deficit in to next year.
A number of things, the most significant being $335,000 in pension costs, and rising fuel and hydro costs have put the district in a tough spot.
It is also losing $300,000 in special education funding as a result of a decline in students which require additional resources.
“We recognize that the deficit will be a challenge but we’re going to work at it with the intent of continuing to provide the best education we can for our students,” said Peter Neale, School District 72’s secretary-treasurer.
A school district is not legally allowed to run a deficit unless it has enough funds in its contingency reserve to cover the shortfall.
School District 72 is low on savings and does not have that option.
“We’re not planning to use up our reserves,” said Neale. “Because we have been dipping into our contingency reserves so much in the past couple of years, it’s too low to consider.”
Instead, the district will have to look at making other changes to balance the budget.
“We’re looking at operational changes to reduce costs and become more efficient,” said Neale. “We’re also meeting with parent groups to determine their priorities and seek some solutions.”
The district has received an extra $1 million from the province – the same as last year – to help manage declining enrolments.
The school district qualified for one-time funding protection ($508,000) and enrolment decline dollars ($492,000) which allows the district time to adjust to declining numbers.
Enrolment at Campbell River area schools is projected to decrease by 180 students next year, with Timberline Secondary School losing 100 of those students.
Typically, the school district would receive less funding from the government because school districts are funded on a per student basis.
This year the province has upped funding by $44 per student which translates to $6,784 for each student in the Campbell River area.
Neale said the introduction of full-day kindergarten next year helps the district, because now all students will be funded as full-time which will help balance the loss of students.
The school district will allow public input into the budget at its regular board of education meeting April 26 at 7:30 p.m. and again at a special meeting May 3 at 7 p.m. – both at the school board office.