School District 71 is one of only seven districts in the province not currently projecting a deficit for the coming year. File photo

School District 71 is one of only seven districts in the province not currently projecting a deficit for the coming year. File photo

Comox Valley school district one of the few facing balanced budget

“We don’t have a lot of extra money, but we’re able to cover our current costs.”

The bad news is that School District 71 doesn’t expect a lot of surplus money for the upcoming school year.

The good news though is that it does not expect to be in a deficit position, which puts it in a minority among the public school districts in B.C.

“This is just the preliminary first draft,” secretary-treasurer Brenda Hooker told school trustees at the April 26 board meeting. “We are projecting to have a balanced budget, which is very good news.”

She was giving an update about the status of the upcoming budget for the 2022-23 school year. Of the 60 school districts, she said, Comox Valley was one of seven currently anticipating a balanced budget.

“We’re in a good situation. We don’t have a lot of extra money, but we’re able to cover our current costs,” she said.

RELATED STORY: Enrolment numbers mean bigger budget for Comox Valley schools

By law, districts are supposed to present balanced budgets, so for many, this will mean making cuts.

Most of the revenue for the district comes from the Ministry of Education based on enrolment, which is expected to increase in the Comox Valley in the coming year. It had been dropping for many years, but it started to increase year over year from 2015 onward.

The enrolment increase is expected to result in an additional $3.6 million in revenue through the operating grant from the ministry. This also means higher costs.

“With additional students, we’ll need additional staffing levels,” Hooker said.

In a report to the board, she noted the increase from the grant will be adjusted by revenue changes in other budget areas, which should ultimately result in overall increased revenue of just under $3.5 million.

The district also faces negotiated wage and salary increases, which are to be funded. However, some staff increases are exempt, such as salaries for principals and vice-principals. There are other cost pressures from additional staffing positions and changes to employment standards over sick days for on-call teachers and casual employees. On top of this are pension and benefit premiums, utility costs, an enhanced student learning framework and information technology. With these additional costs added, the district is left with about $50,000 that it can allocate.

“You will notice that the numbers change, as we learn of more information and work though our estimates,” director of finance Candice Hilton added. “Some of the amounts may be adjusted slightly.”

The district starts the process early in the calendar year for the next school year and takes input from the public before the board passes a preliminary budget by the end of June. Once the operating grant is known during the actual school year, the district completes its final budget.



mike.chouinard@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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School District 71