School District 71 is anticipating more money from the province for the next school year. File photo

School District 71 is anticipating more money from the province for the next school year. File photo

Comox Valley Schools expect $3.3 million more from ministry

Province gives no indication of any funds should more COVID protocols be needed

School District 71 is anticipating some more revenue from the provincial government for the coming year.

However, there is no indication at this point of any additional funding to help districts should they have to bring in enhanced health and safety protocols in response to COVID-19, as was the case during the current school year.

Secretary-treasurer Brenda Hooker updated school trustees at their board meeting on March 16 about the latest funding information from the Ministry of Education, which the district received the previous Friday.

“It’s the preliminary funding announcement based on the enrolment projections,” she said.

In all, the province expects to add $260 million to the education system to handle growing enrolment in B.C. Hooker said the province has rolled funding for bargaining and labour settlements into the block funding amount, which accounts for part of the increase.

The funding breaks down into $325 more per student, Hooker said. With a projection of 9,271 students in the district, she said the enrolment funding should amount to just over $71 million. With additional funds for other budget areas such as special needs funding, the district will see total revenue from the Ministry of Education of $94,022,777, compared with $90,665,277 for the current year’s amended final budget.

Hooker cautioned trustees that this only represents the revenue side, as staff are starting to consider matters such as staffing and other expenses for the upcoming budget meeting in April. The district puts together its preliminary budget to be ready before the end of June for the coming school year.

Director of finance Candice Hilton noted that the $3.3 million also represents just the ministry portion.

“There will be changes to other sources of revenue,” she said.

Both Hilton and Hooker pointed out that districts should not count on any extra grants to help with additional costs related to COVID protocols again.

“We want to be very cautious when we’re talking about enhancements,” Hooker said. “We’ve been told not to expect anything.”

Potentially, extra measures could have to come from school district reserves. Superintendent Tom Demeo added that the district only found out about the latest revenue announcement.

“I think it’s too early to start predicting what they’re going to ask us,” he said.

Board Sheila McDonnell conceded that the uncertainty was going to result in an “extremely challenging budget,” though she added that there were factors not yet known, such as potential federal money for helping with safety measures, or a growth in international students enrolment if protocols are lessened based on COVID numbers.

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