An online petition against having a vaccine mandate at the Vernon School District has garnered close to 1,000 signatures as of Friday, Nov. 19, 2021. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)

$1.2M deficit on the books for Vernon School District

Reserves depleted as schools spending more than they make

The Vernon School District is spending more than its bringing in.

The school district’s annual budget includes $120 million in expenditures. The budget provides for everything the district needs to educate its 8,700 students, including classroom and specialist teachers, education assistants, bus drivers and all the people, buildings and infrastructure needed to support the educational team.

But looking ahead to next school year, the district is about $1.2 million short, which will come out of reserves.

“To put that amount in context, we spend about $600,000 for every day of instruction in the school district,” Supt. Christine Perkins said, adding it’s too early to say what impact any shortfall may have.

Increased costs from wage increases and inflation are also expected going into next year.

“We’re spending more money than we’re bringing in, in revenue,” secretary-treasurer Adrian Johnson said.

The district hosted a public finance presentation Jan. 26 online, which approximately 25 people tuned in for.

“The goal is transparency,” Johnson said. “I think we do a good job in the way we allocate our funding, obviously we can’t please everybody.”

The deficit represents about one per cent of the annual budget.

“So it is within the margin of error, but I’d rather be on the other side of the margin of error,” Johnson said.

The district doesn’t expect any major revenues coming in to change that and there won’t be much left in reserves for the following year.

Enrolment numbers will help the school board further determine what funding is coming in, expected around March 15.

The schools did see a few more students return this year, after a number moved online when COVID-19 first started 20 months ago.

The International Student Program has also been a success story since the beginning of the pandemic.

“We didn’t expect students to even be able to land in the country,” Johnson said. “At that point we thought we were going to incur a loss.”

Federal and provincial governments stepped in to help students and Vernon ended up with about half the number of international students it normally saw – much more than anticipated.

International students account for a large portion of revenue in the school district – $5 million in tuition fees. After costs, the district nets about $600,000.

Parents, students, staff and community members are invited to have their say on the future of the schools by providing input into the strategic plan at sd22.bc.ca until Feb. 4.

READ MORE: Vernon school district hired over 225 employees in 2021

READ MORE: Central Okanagan board of education adopts COVID vaccine mandate for staff


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