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School funding break ‘very helpful’ for Mission district

Mission district recorded a “small” budget surplus this year, meaning the funds could go to make improvements.

Dan Ferguson

Abbotsford News

A provincial announcement of a funding break for B.C. school districts is “very helpful,” Mission school district assistant superintendent Randy Huth said Wednesday.

The district will receive $280,146.

The announcement was made Tuesday by education minister Mike Bernier, who said belt tightening by school districts across the province has resulted in $25 million in administrative savings, and each board will get a share.

Huth said the Mission district recorded a “small” budget surplus this year, meaning the funds could go to make improvements.

“We’ll be able to use this,” Huth said.

Huth did not disclose the dollar amount of the surplus, but said it was enough to avoid teacher layoffs this year.

He said the Mission district has been holding the fiscal line and running “thin” for the last several years.

The announcement drew a cautious response from Abbotsford school district, Secretary Treasurer Ray Velestuk.

“I wouldn’t be expecting anything dramatic,” Velestuk said.

For Abbotsford, the amount is $846,484.

But that comes after two years of budget cutting in response to a provincial government order to have school districts find administrative savings.

The district made $973,000 in administrative savings cuts for the 2015-2016 budget and trimmed another $1.82 million from the 2016-17 budget.

Velestuk said this soon after the announcement, the district isn’t planning to rescind any of those cuts, but he isn’t ruling it out, either.

“We’re not going to race out and make decisions now,” Velestuk told The News.

“What we will do is look at what change, if any, we want to make.”

However, Velestuk indicated a wholesale rollback of the cuts appears to be a remote possibility, given the fact that the district is facing a potential deficit of $930,000 and is also expecting an increase in student enrollment.

NDP leader John Horgan said the announcement was an attempt to put an end to bad publicity over local school cuts.

“Parents, teachers, district representatives have been grappling with these issues for 23 months, and in the last hour the premier comes forward with next to nothing,” Horgan said.

BC Teachers Federation president Jim Iker said Tuesday’s announcement shows the government is “listening to the building public pressure.”

B.C. School Trustees Association president Teresa Rezansoff said the announcement helps to recognize the “ongoing funding needs of school districts, and will address some of the immediate financial pressures currently being faced in our schools.”

But it “will not fully address all of the current funding concerns in school districts,” Rezansoff added.


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