Schools face revenue shortfall

Vernon School District moving ahead with its budget for the coming year

While the Ministry of Education has increased its funding to B.C. school districts, in the Vernon district that translates to just $8 more per student.

District secretary-treasurer Sterling Olson said instead of the expected $63 per student, this lack of additional funding for provincial enrolment growth reduces the per pupil amount by $55 per student for the 2016/17 school year.

“This results in a loss of revenue to our school district of approximately $450,000,” he said. “This reduction in funding is in addition to the reduction of funding for administrative savings.”

The ministry’s increase in total funding is made up of an additional $62 million to cover costs of the negotiated collective agreement change and a reduction of funding of $25 for administrative (non-classroom) reductions for a net increase of $37 million.

“Our district projected a small increase in our September regular enrolment, but also fairly significant increases in our special needs student population due to some work that our student services department has done in identifying additional level three students and some increased enrolment for our February and May counts,” said Olson.

Based upon this additional projected enrolment, revenue for 2016/17 should have increased by approximately $1.3 million in addition to Labour Settlement Funding previously projected. With 527,000 students in B.C., $8 per student works out to around $4.2 million.

Additional funding of $6.7 million was added to the FAS to fund enrolment growth for the current school year. This funding has been removed for 2016/17 even though students are still enrolled in the province.

As well, the ministry is holding back $15 million from funding for enrolment growth over what has already been projected.

“So at the end of the day, it looks like $29.2 million should have been added to the system for enrolment growth or not have a holdback, but because they created a holdback, there’s now only $8 per student as opposed to what we thought should  have been an increase of $63. So while we’re getting money for some of our enrolment growth, we’re actually not getting money for all of the costs associated with that,” said Olson. “The good part I guess is that we had projected a budget shortfall of $319,000 in our February 24 report to the board, with our increased funding of $1.3 million that relates to student growth but offset by the unanticipated loss of funding of $450,000 we will be in a net budget position of $531,000. A lot of that is related to enrolment growth and student needs.

“But the good part is we’re actually in a situation of figuring out what we’re going to add as opposed to just what we have to cut to balance the budget, so it’s not really a sufficient amount of money to cover the costs that we expect for the increased enrolment but we are in a situation of being able to add services to accommodate some of that growth.”

Through the public consultation process, the board can receive input from various stakeholders, including employees and members of the public. Input on the budget can be made through the district’s web site at until April 4.

“There are a number of options that have started to be developed, items commented on in Thought Exchange, on the district web site” said Olson. “They are floated in the spirit that we are transparent and any issue can be considered.”

The board will hold several special public meetings to go over the budget, with the first scheduled for April 13 at 7 p.m. Final reading and adoption of the 2016/17 budget is set for May 25. The board is required to have a balanced budget submitted to the ministry by the end of June.

“Between April 13 and April 27 we’ll meet with a number of different stakeholders and partner groups, and get input from the public so that the board can be in a position to approve a 2016 budget adjustment plan on April 27.”