School District 71’s final budget for this school year showed more revenue from distance learning students but less from traditional classroom registration. Record file photo

School District 71’s final budget for this school year showed more revenue from distance learning students but less from traditional classroom registration. Record file photo

Comox Valley Schools’ budget grant almost $5.5 million higher than planned

Increase came from a boost in distributed learning rather traditional registration

More enrolment, at least through distance learning, and more safety measures for those students who returned to classrooms in the fall has meant more money for School District 71 this year.

The board approved the budget bylaw for the $122 million budget in the 2020-21 school year at the Feb. 23 meeting. The board passed a motion to allow for three readings of the budget bylaw to take place at the meeting.

One of the notable developments from the school was a $5 million increase in revenue, tied to increases in distributed — or distance — learning through NIDES, the district’s program, which saw not only many local students opting for online classes this year but students from outside the district as well.

“All of these changes can be attributed to the COVID pandemic,” the school district’s director of finance Candice Hilton told the board.

RELATED STORY: Comox Valley Schools expects enrolment drop come fall

The district’s budget report shows the difference in what was anticipated and what happened as far as student enrolment is concerned. While lower in-school enrolment resulted in $3,157,717 less for the operating grant from the province, the portion from distributed learning was $7,676,088 higher in the amended, final version of the budget. There were smaller increases in categories such as “home school” as well.

The budget did include some areas that showed reductions such as international student tuition and income from investment revenue.

Overall, the operating grant, which makes up the largest portion of the budget, was almost $5.5 million higher than expected mostly because of higher overall enrolment.

Hilton also highlighted the factor of provincial and federal funding programs to support work that happened to provide a safe return to schools in the fall through the addition of screens and other measures.

“These sources of funding are temporary and will be expended by the end of this school year,” she said.

For September, the district expects more students could return to the traditional class setting, with perhaps fewer taking part in online classes, especially those who registered from outside the Comox Valley.

For this school year, the budget bylaw passed represents the final budget. School districts prepare a preliminary budget each spring based on projections to help them prepare for the coming school year. Once their operating grants are finalized based on the enrolment count as of the end of September, districts put together their final budgets for that school year. These are due to the Ministry of Education by the end of February.

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