Surplus, what surplus, says Campbell River school board chair

Most of the extra money is expected to go to CUPE raises

It looks like a lot of money on paper.

The reality though for Campbell River School District 72 is it’s still operating a tight budget in spite of a $1.3 million operating surplus.

The surplus funds were highlighted at the Sept. 24 board meeting by accountant Brad Piercy who presented the annual financial statements for the year ending June 30, 2013.

According to Piercy, the surplus was due to wage savings, increased revenues of $260,000, under-spent budget appropriations, and additional savings due to under-spending in supplies.

However, board chair Michele Babchuk has difficulty looking at the $1.3 million as “surplus.” Out of this amount, $737,000 is for planned spending and sits in reserve while the remaining $616,00 was put into an unrestricted reserve.

What that really means, said Babchuk, is the money will be used to pay for the wage increase the provincial bargaining team agreed to with the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) which represents educational support workers.

Under a tentative three-year agreement, which would expire in May 2014, CUPE members will receive a wage increase amounting to 3.5 per cent. The trouble is, said Babchuk, is the province is making each school district come up with the cash.

“CUPE members deserve a raise,” said Babchuk. “(But) this is a bit of a blow to us. That $616,000 is going to disappear.”

The school district is also hustling to meet the Oct. 15 deadline, imposed by the province, to show how the board will pay for the wage increase.

“It’s a tight timeframe and there’s a lot of rules and regulations,” she added.

The board also has another $1

million in its contingency reserve. This represents just two per cent of the district’s annual operating budget and approximately one week of operating expenses.

Babchuk said the contingency is a necessity because sometimes the district is waiting for funds from the province and still needs to pay its bills and employees.

On the subject of financial management, Babchuk said a big job this coming school year will be the facilities review. The district will take a careful look at the condition of all its buildings and also consider the changing demographics of the city to determine the future needs of education and related services.

“I think it’s timely,” she said.