Delta School Board to release budget recommendations this week

It's unclear how the court-mandated settlement between the BCTF and the provincial government will affect the budget recommendations.

The Delta School District has had a financial deficit every year for a decade. By law, it must have a balanced budget and therefore cuts are often made.

The Delta School District has had a financial deficit every year for a decade. By law, it must have a balanced budget and therefore cuts are often made.

The Delta School Board’s annual budget recommendations will be released on Friday, April 21, and its unclear how increases from the provincial government will impact them.

This year, the provincial government set aside $1.4 million in funding for the Delta School District, including $785,098 in one-time funding to purchase classroom equipment and supplies to help teachers deliver B.C.’s new curriculum.

In total, the 2017 provincial budget committed an addition $740 million to operating funds for school districts over three years. In part, this funding went to support the 2,600 teachers that are to be hired around the province as part of the court-mandated settlement between the B.C. government and the B.C. Teachers Federation.

Right now, the Delta School Board is unable to comment on the impact this funding will have on their budget recommendations.

The battle between the BCTF and the provincial government had been going on for 15 years, and there isn’t a precedent to show what that money will do for school district budgets. In the past, specific funding grants — such as the $785,098 Student Learning Grant — have gone to support those immediate initiatives.

Last year, the Delta School Board budget recommendations included cuts to meet the legal requirement for a balanced budget. Although there was a $60 per pupil funding increase from the Ministry of Education, the school district was still $3.38 million short.

The school board recommended solutions that included reductions in staffing and supplies, as well as increased revenue from the international student and continuing education programs.

The Delta School Board budget recommendations have forecasted a shortfall of between $2.02 million (2012-2013) and $5.3 million (2009- 2010) for the last decade. Over the years, cuts have been suggested in teaching, support, clerical, custodial and administrative staff positions. There were also suggestions of using reserve funds and charging students without special needs for bus services.

With such a long history of cuts, Delta Teachers’ Association president Paul Steer isn’t hopefully about this coming budget. However, he thinks the school board should focus on funding what he believes is most important to the students.

“The first priority for educational funding in Delta should be to support the relationships that matter most,” he said. “And that means, put as many teachers as you possibly can together with kids who are going to benefit from their education, training and expertise.

“Anything else should be looked at carefully before it continues.”

Steer will be at the Tuesday, April 25 public feedback session for the Delta School District budget. The session takes place at 7:30 p.m. at the Delta School Board office (4585 Harvest Drive). He hopes other Delta residents will join him.

“My hope is that there could be a kind of resurgence of public concern and active, focused interest in matters of public policy right here in Delta,” he said. “We would all stand to benefit from that.”

The complete school board budget recommendations will be released on Friday, April 21 at 10 a.m. Visit northdeltareporter.com to learn about the budget recommendations’ highlights after they are released.

Budget breakdown:

• The 2016-2017 annual budget went largely towards regular instruction costs, including salaries for teachers, principals, education assistants and support staff.

• The total operating cost for regular instruction was $71,655,999. This was down from $73,665,983 in the 2015-2016 budget.

• Teachers’ salaries made up the greatest proportion of the regular instruction expenses, with $50,649,244 being allocated for teachers.

• The next highest expense in regular instruction was substitute teacher salaries ($2,255,367), followed by principal and vice-principal salaries ($1,734,056), educational assistant salaries ($663,197) and support staff salaries ($47,107)

• The second highest total expenditure in the 2016-2017 budget was for special education at $27,037,600. Teachers’ salaries made up just over a third of this cost at $10,564,085.

• The next two highest operating costs were maintenance operations at $10,387,637 and school administration at $10,291,578.

• In the 2015-2016 budget, special education expenditure was $27,396,795 — nearly $400,000 more than the following year. Maintenance operations were $9,851,067 and school administration was $9,899,553.

• Maintenance operations had increased by more than $500,000 between 2015-2016 and 2016-2017. School administration increased by just under $400,000.

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the provincial government was providing $740,000 for school districts. The correct amount is $740 million. We regret the error and have corrected the copy above.

North Delta Reporter

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