School District 71 is in a relatively strong position when it comes to its finances for the coming year.
While the pandemic has caused much uncertainty for B.C. school districts, the Comox Valley’s board of education was able to pass its preliminary budget for 2021-22 with enough funds to balance and avoid a structural deficit for operating revenue and expenses.
“This is a really good news story,” secretary-treasurer Brenda Hooker told the trustees at the May 25 meeting.
The district passes a preliminary budget based on projected enrolment, along with personnel plans for schools.
“We want to build the budget based on the staffing we’ll need for September,” board chair Sheila McDonnell said.
Once the actual enrolment is known and used for a district’s operating grant, districts then pass a final amended budget for the year during the middle of the school year.
Staff are anticipating 9,271 students for the next school year. The portion of the budget dealing with the district’s operating revenue versus expenses shows $98,442,793 in revenue, mostly from the provincial operating grant, versus $97,211,131 in expenses, totaling net revenue of just over $1.2 million. The overall budget, including transfers, gets more complex. In this case, there are requirements to transfer from operations to the capital budget for capital items purchased from operations, such as fleet vehicles, classroom furniture, technology or outdoor classes. For the coming year, the district plans to use $828,338 from reserves to balance the budget.
In response to the pandemic, the district has also faced operating expenses such as enhanced cleaning health and safety protocols. As well, it is also putting money in mental health supports. Trustees were pleased to see money to help students with the extra challenges associated with disruptions from COVID-19.
“It’s one of the things I’ve been advocating,” trustee Janice Caton said.
At the same time, the budget was affected by reduced revenue from building rentals and the International Student Program because of the pandemic, though as Caton said, the district’s main purpose for programs such as the international program was for cultural enrichment rather than generating revenue.
Hooker added that the district will have a better sense of these actual revenue sources in the near future, but staff are using a low estimate for the preliminary budget, which has to be passed by the end of June.
“We felt it was better to be conservative with our initial budget,” she said.
The board passed all readings for the preliminary budget at the May 25 meeting, as well as the latest capital plan bylaw.