District faces major shortfall

Enrolment may be up but the Vernon School District is still looking at a budget shortfall for the next school year

Enrolment may be up but the Vernon School District is still looking at a budget shortfall for the next school year.

Secretary-treasurer Sterling Olson said it’s still early in the budget process, but the bottom line is that the district is looking at a shortfall of around $800,000 over two years.

“That’s quite simply two issues that drive that,” he said. “One is government reducing funding and requiring boards to offset that with reductions to what they call non-instructional programs and services, which is around $400,000.”

The other issue is that while the Ministry of Education is providing funds to cover the negotiated unionized collective agreement provision, they’re not putting any money in for other cost pressures, such as utility increases, MSP premium increases or anything for principals and vice-principals and other exempt staff.

“So really, between the ministry reducing funding and some of those cost pressures not being funded, at this point in time the board will need to find ways to balance the budget,” said Olson. “We’ve got a number of months, so over those number of months we’ll be pulling together options and strategies for the board to achieve a balanced budget.”

The board is required to approve an annual budget on or before June 30, 2016 for the 2016/17 school year.

The adoption of the 2015/16 amended annual budget is scheduled for Feb. 24, 2016. At this point, Olson said no surplus is anticipated from the current school year to support the 2016/17 budget.

The combination of $1,354,000 in projected cost pressures along with a projected revenue increase of $549,260 results in a projected budget shortfall of $804,740 for the 2016/17 school year.

The board will be establishing other opportunities for the DPAC, First Nations representatives, and union representatives to discuss the budget development with the board. Other public input methods to the board will also be provided.

“We need to find different ways to make sure that we’re getting stakeholder input into the process,” said Olson. “Not included of course is a lot of the work we do behind the scenes with district management, including principals and vice principals, to help provide information and recommendations back to the board but I think it’s important that some of the VTA, CUPE and DPAC have an ability to actually speak directly to the board.”