By Neil Corbett
The Mission Board of Education approved a $55 million budget that will start digging the district out of a $1 million hole.
School board budgets are supposed to be balanced by law, but the 2011-2012 budget allows for a $350,000 surplus. A similar surplus over the next three years will allow the district to pay back a $1 million deficit from the past budget year.
The surplus is achieved through staff cuts. Secretary-treasurer Carrie McVeigh told trustees that approximately 90 per cent of the board’s expenses are salaries and benefits.
The net reductions will be:
14 FTEs (full-time equivalents) for teachers
3.4 FTEs for secretaries (affecting eight people)
3.9 FTEs for education assistants (affecting seven employees)
3.4 FTEs for youth care workers (affecting four employees)
1.2 FTEs for Supervision Assistants (affecting nine employees)
“I can’t emphasize enough how difficult these decisions are – determining where we will make reductions,” McVeigh told trustees. She added that there have been cuts in all employee groups in recent years.
The district had a $1.9 million surplus in its operations budget in 2003, but has had deficits every year since, with the exception of 2005-2006.
McVeigh noted that declining enrolment has caused financial problems for the district, which gets provincial funding on a per-pupil basis. According to demographic statistics, enrolment is predicted to bottom out in 2012, and begin climbing in 2016.
There are also going to be staff increases in some areas. Grounds maintenance was cut too much last year, and 0.5 FTE will be added for the coming school. There will also be three new Aboriginal education assistant positions. The latter will be funded through “targeted dollars,” designated to boost graduation rates for aboriginal students, McVeigh explained.
Revenues from the district are almost completely dependent on provincial funding, with 96.4 per cent coming from the Education Ministry. Two per cent comes from international students, and the balance from other sources.
According to the budget, the district will take in $55,077,000 and spend all but $350,000. That will go toward the $1 million deficit from the 2010-2011 budget.
Board Vice-Chair Carol Hamilton said the district should continue to explore opportunities to have foreign students attend in Mission, because the district is reliant on this revenue source to balance its budgets.
Further cuts in spending are difficult to find, she said.
“We’ve got all the low-hanging fruit, and we’re climbing up the tree now,” said Hamilton.
Trustee Randy Cairns noted that the level of funding from the province is not adequate. Hamilton agreed, and said the public should be encouraged to write MLAs and the Education Ministry to increase funding for schools.