Budget shortfall less than expected

The Vernon School District received good news this week, thanks to a budget shortfall that was less than expected...

After years of cuts and declining enrolment, the Vernon School District received good news this week, thanks to a budget shortfall that was less than expected: $319,000 instead of $800,000.

District secretary-treasurer Sterling Olson said a combination of $868,000 in projected cost pressures offset by a projected revenue increase of $549,000 results in a  projected budget shortfall of $319,000, primarily due to the reductions in teacher pension plan premium costs.

“While the cost pressures not funded by government are offset by the savings, the reduction in funding for administrative savings of $377,000 results in a shortfall,” he said.

Teacher pension plan premiums are being reduced by 1.82 per cent starting July 1. Olson said premiums for these plans have increased over the years without any increase in funding from the ministry. It is expected that these savings will be left with districts to offset other costs not funded.

“Last month we had a shortfall of over $800,000 and this month the government has announced that the employer no longer can decrease the premium payments for teacher pension plans because they are in pretty good shape, so our premiums went down and the government could have taken that money back but they have not so that makes it better,” said board chairperson Kelly Smith.

“But now we have to make administrative cuts and we are not really sure where — it’s cuts wherever you can make them, but not in the classroom, anything as long as it’s not in the classroom.

“Our board office is cut pretty close to the bone already; there is no assistant superintendent, and one executive assistant who covers both the superintendent and the secretary-treasurer. So administrative savings could be things like paper for the photocopier.”

The funding announcement from the ministry is expected on or before March 15.

“Perhaps we’ll see cuts to things such as the resources in the classroom, so with technology perhaps not as much software can be purchased,” said Smith.

“Our principals and vice-principals are the ones who open our schools in the morning —  it’s those things that are extra burdens on the system and they just wear people down.”

The ministry has allowed for wage increases for principals and vice-principals, but Smith said it is not funding those increases.

The board’s annual budget must be submitted to the Ministry of Education by June 30.

With 81 per cent of funding tied directly to the number of students enrolled, any change in enrolment significantly impacts revenue.

The board divides expenditures into four functions: instruction, district administration, operations and maintenance, transportation.

Salaries and benefits make up the majority of the district’s operating budget, at 87 per cent related to the employment of staff.

Olson said  the district should be entitled to approximately $926,000 of additional funding to offset the costs of the negotiated teacher and support staff agreements.

Public input on the budget can be made through the district’s web site at www.sd22.bc.ca until April 4. The board will give final reading and adoption of the budget at its regular board meeting May 25.