School District 59 trustees adopted an amended $53,310,180 budget for the 2018/19 school year at the February board meeting, with a deficit of $879,792.
While the Ministry of Education requires school districts to submit balanced budgets, they are allowed to pull on previous years surpluses to fund current year expenses. As of June 2018, the district had an accumulated operating surplus of $6,977,265.
“We are currently looking at ways to reduce costs as the ability to pull on previous years surpluses to fund current year deficits is not sustainable,” said SD 59 secretary-treasurer Melissa Panoulias.
Due to an increase of 112.8 FTE in student enrolment — hence an increase in the student base allocation by $831,374 — the district saw funding protection decrease by $729,762 from the previous year.
At the height of funding protection, in 2015/16 the District received an additional $3,670,557. In 2017/18, the district received $1,225,269 in funding protection, while this year, they receive $83,723.
“Funding protection is to ensure that no district experiences a decline in operating grants no greater than 1.5% compared to the previous September,” said Panoulias. “As a school district’s enrollment decreases so does the funding and difficult decisions are required, which may lead to school closures. Funding protection serves as intermediate additional funding to allow time for boards to make decisions to ‘right-size’ their operations to the current enrollment. School District 59 is currently transitioning out of funding protection and is therefore going through a period of finance adjustment.
“Due to the loss in funding protection per student funding is at $10,998, this is the lowest it has been since 2012/13. When you factor in increased costs based on collective agreement increases, funding is back at the level it was in 2006 which was when we first started to see the increase in funding protection.”
A funding formula review by the Ministry of Education further complicates decisions.
“The Ministry of Education is undergoing a Funding Formula Review that was initially to be implemented for the 2019/20 school year; this has been delayed a year. This complicates this period of transition out of Funding Protection as the board could be looking at a whole different funding formula for the 2020/21 school year,” said Panoulias.
Major projects going forward for the District are Chetwynd Secondary School renovations ($1.75 million of internally restricted surplus is allocated) and a solution to the Pouce Coupe capacity problem.