Difficult balancing act for School District 43

Coquitlam school district trustees listen to a presentation on the budget. School District 43 anticipates a $13.4 million shortfall for 2014/
Coquitlam school district trustees listen to a presentation on the budget. School District 43 anticipates a $13.4 million shortfall for 2014/'15.

School District 43 faces a tough job balancing its budget for next year, it was announced this week.

And finding places to cut School District 43’s projected $13.4-million deficit next year will be tricky because staffing makes up so much of its costs — 91%, compared to a provincial average of 88.7%.

The district also has higher staff benefits cost, spending 21.45% of its operating budget on benefits compared to the provincial average of 17.9% (while spending less on non-salary items, such as transportation and supplies, which account for 8.9% compared to the provincial average of 11.3%).

At least a few of the cost pressures derive from efforts to heed an audit report into the district’s finances that called for more conservative estimating. For example, continuing education and international education revenue are projected to be lower and the district isn’t counting on receiving revenue held back for enrolment contribution, which amounts to a $1.8 million hit to the budget.

Other additional expenses for which the district is planning include higher teacher salary and benefit costs of $1.3 million, $700,000 in employee future benefit cost increases, $991,000 in wage increases for support staff, higher CPP, MSP and EI costs, and increased supply costs, among other things.

The district also has to pay for new student tracking software implemented by the province at a cost of $225,000 and is a $661,000 cost for additional staffing for the new Eagle Mountain middle school in Anmore, plus higher gas and electrical costs of about $624,000.

About $1.1 million is for program needs to support teachers and vulnerable students, as well as to pay for this fall’s trustees elections, but even that is a small chunk of the $270-million overall budget.

In operating expenses alone, the district is anticipating a $10-million shortfall because of higher costs and lower anticipated revenue.

As well, the district is trying to budget more prudently than in years past and wants to put $900,000 into a contingency fund while also having to pay back about $2.5 million next year to cover deficits from 2012/’13 and ’13/’14.

Together, the higher operating deficit, debt repayment and contingency add up to $13.4 million, which the district is looking to find ways to cut over the next few weeks.

More information about the budget and the public input process is available here.


SD43 budget meetings will be held at Winslow Centre, 1100 Winslow Ave., Coquitlam:

• Tuesday, April 8, an open house from 6 to 8 p.m., and an opportunity for delegations to speak at 8:30, after the regular board meeting.

• Thursday, April 10, special public board meeting: more delegations at 7 p.m.

• Tuesday, April 15, special public meeting: budget recommendations 7 p.m.

• Tuesday, April 22, special public meeting: preliminary budget 7 p.m.

• Tuesday, April 29: final budget meeting 7:30 p.m.

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