School District #83 carried forward a budget surplus of $1.9 million from last year’s budget; however, trustees remain in limbo about whether to spend or save.
This year $554,000 of the surplus is being used to support the current year’s budget.
The spend-or-save dilemma is because the provincial government has not committed to retaining funding protection for school districts with severe declining enrolment. School districts across the province are funded on a per student basis, regardless of the number of students. However, school districts face some fixed costs associated with keeping schools operating. The cost of hydro, for example, remains the same whether a school houses 100 students or 400 students.
“Are we going to function indefinitely under the threat of pulling funding protection?” asked trustee Chris Coers.
Stirling Olson, secretary-treasurer, told the board they have had no notice of an impending change, but announcements are usually made in March.
“We have two budget scenarios. One puts us in a good position to keep operating with our current services, the other has us potentially losing a million dollars in revenue, which would put us in an entirely different position.”
Coers says this is frustrating because school boards like theirs feel compelled to be conservative with funds and hold them in reserve rather than spend them on services for students.
“We could be doing things for kids, but if we do that, and the government suddenly decides to pull the funding we don’t want to get stuck.”