Enrollment numbers mean bigger budget for Comox Valley schools – Comox Valley Record
School District 71 is in relatively good financial health as of its latest budget.
Not long ago, the district, like many others, faced decline, although in recent years school enrollment has been on the rise. This is not the case everywhere.
“We’re in a good position compared to other school districts,” budget committee chair Janice Caton said at the February school board meeting.
She added that she expects funding to be tightened by the province in the coming year, but for now, the district’s financial plan is relatively stable.
The district establishes a preliminary budget before each school year. Once the district has an enrollment count at the end of September, the Department of Education determines the operating grant for a district. After this point, the district completes its final budget to be adopted by the end of February. In this case, the operating grant in the amending budget was approximately $97.2 million compared to just over $94 million previously. This represents the vast majority of income.
During the meeting, Secretary-Treasurer Brenda Hooker presented some of the features of the amended budget.
“At the end of the day, everything is balanced,” she said.
The document includes a 2.5% increase in contingency reserves.
A drop in online enrollment was expected as students returned to classrooms, although it was not such a steep drop, and along with other increases, district enrollment rose. The amended version of the budget was higher for both revenue and expenditure compared to the previous version. The main driver of the increase has been higher-than-expected enrollment numbers, but that also comes with challenges.
“With an increase in revenue, there is an increase in costs,” Hooker said.
For example, the district will add more staff. In addition, there is a 2% wage increase for all employees. The additional staff, along with higher salaries and benefits, resulted in an increase of more than $3.7 million in personnel costs.
This increase also includes measures such as COVID precautions for school buildings and vehicles, Hooker said.
One of the concerns raised by the administrators was the rising cost of fuel and whether this was built into the contract with First Student Canada.
Operations Manager Ian Heselgrave responded that there is a base price, but the district pays more as fuel costs rise.
In response, the council wanted to know if there were any options for electric buses. Heselgrave said the Department of Education is looking into the matter and First Student is conducting trials, but the district should check with local management if buses are a possibility in the Comox Valley.
The budget also includes sections such as upcoming capital projects. The plan calls for about $2.4 million more for works such as nine outdoor classrooms. Other projects include work at Arden and Huband Elementary, additional IT costs and a redesign of the entrance at Mark Isfeld to make it more accessible as well as the addition of a new sign. Of this latest project, Heselgrave explained that it will improve traffic flow at the entrance to the school. In addition, they will create an outdoor learning space.
The board voted unanimously to hold all the readings of the budget bylaw at the February 22 meeting, which meant they wouldn’t have to hold another special meeting to pass the bylaw in time for the deadline. of the ministry. The trustees then passed all the readings to finalize the budget.
School district 71