Extra funding for school board

School District 71 ended 2010 on a high note by receiving an additional $486,000 from the provincial government.

School District 71 ended 2010 on a high note by receiving an additional $486,000 from the provincial government.

The government announced revised funding late last month.

“Funding continues to increase in School District 71, despite declining enrolment,” Comox Valley MLA Don McRae said in a news release. “We need to do our best to ensure that this funding goes straight to helping students succeed.”

Each January, school districts across the province provide enrolment estimates to the Ministry of Education, and the ministry uses these figures to provide estimated funding amounts in March so that districts can budget for the upcoming school year, noted the release. Those amounts are then revised in September based on how many students actually report to school.

More students showed up to Comox Valley schools in September than expected, so the ministry increased funding by nearly $486,000 over what was announced in March.

The school district is free to direct this funding to best meet student needs in local schools, according to the government.

The additional money comes from what districts call a holdback grant, and it has been a few years since School District 71 received this funding, explained Len Ibbs, the district’s secretary-treasurer.

“The ministry always holds back an amount of money in case enrolments are different,” he said. “Enrolments came back more closely to what was predicted than in the past.”

Ibbs’s advice to the school board will be that it is late in the year to do anything with the funding in this year’s budget, but the board could look to build it into the 2011-12 budget to reduce the cutbacks required.

“That’s typical of districts I’ve talked to,” he said. “They’re certainly looking to hold it as a reserve surplus for the current year and use it for the following year to balance the budget.”

The ministry releases the funds on a per-pupil basis, and for School District 71, this was $88 per full-time equivalent (FTE).

School District 71 is in funding protection, which ensures that districts with declining enrolment do not receive less funding than they did the year before, and because of that, the district did not receive all the funding it could have — which would have worked out to about $704,000 for the district’s roughly 8,000 FTE, according to Ibbs.

“In their minds, because we’re in funding protection, they wouldn’t give us all that money, but it is good news for us,” he said.

The government’s announcement is actually good news for School District 71 in two ways because it provides the extra funding, and it gets the district out of funding protection — which Ibbs says was going to be removed in the next two to three years anyway.

“It’s good news that we get extra funding, and because our funding protection is reduced to zero, we don’t need to adjust our budget around that,” said Ibbs.

writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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