Comox Valley school trustees dealing with looming budget shortfall

The Comox Valley School District is grappling with a projected $1.45-million shortfall.

With a projected $1.45-million shortfall looming in its 2013/2014 budget, the Comox Valley School District’s proposed budget includes spending cuts and use of reserves.

The Finance Committee recommends $826,000 in budget adjustments, plus drawing $619,000 from the district’s operating reserve in order to balance the proposed budget, said district secretary-treasurer Russell Horswill during a Thursday budget information session.

He noted last year’s budget was difficult, and “included rounds of layoffs and reductions” and “other staffing changes, and it was really quite difficult on the system.”

He outlined five guiding principles the finance committee considered when working to balance the budget:

• Where possible, keep reductions away from children;

• Preserve current staff positions as much as possible;

• Look for system efficiencies to reduce costs;

• Entire system should contribute to solution;

• Focus on non-salary costs as much as possible.

According to Horswill, increased expenditures, like MSP rates and teacher pension rates, which the district does not receive additional funding for, totalled an extra $674,000.

As well, he noted the district expects to receive $971,000 less in Ministry of Education grants due to an estimated enrolment decline of 81 students next school year.

While the district expects about $200,000 more in revenue from Navigate powered by North Island Distance Education and the International Student Program thanks their growth, those numbers add up to the $1.45-million shortfall.

Among suggested budget adjustments, just over $200,000 is proposed in cuts to various supplies and services, like operations and maintenance, the district growth fund and the school supply budget.

Removal of one-time costs, which are not necessary this year, add up to over $118,000 in savings.

Also, according to the teacher staffing matrix the district uses to determine how to staff schools based on enrolment, five full-time teaching positions can be eliminated, which frees up $462,500.

“A large chunk of that is attached to declining enrolment and shifting demographics,” said Horswill.

Horswill pointed out the district normally receives more government funding in December, about $900,000 this past December. If forthcoming this year, the funds could pay back the money taken from the reserve to balance the budget.

The public can provide comments on what budget priorities should be until the end of this month on the district website at wwww.sd71.bc.ca.

Stakeholders like CUPE members, principals and vice-principals and teachers have been consulted already, and the information should filter down to parents through the District Parent Advisory Council.

The Board of Education is expected to vote on the proposed budget near the end of May.

writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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