News that School District #83 has been running a surplus is not surprising. School districts in B.C. can not run a deficit, so it would be prudent to budget conservatively.
What is surprising though is how steep the surpluses have been while the school district has been cutting programs like speech therapy and mental health counselling to students. The amounts have varied, but in the last five years it has been between $700,000 and $2.9 million annually. That was money that could have been spent on programs and services to all the kids in the school district.
Then to find out that these surpluses were rolled over into the capital budget to purchase things like computers, furniture and new administration buildings without much in the way of public discussion among trustees at regular board meetings was even more shocking. Parents can’t remember these discussions taking place and neither can this newspaper.
But the $10.5 million in transfers have been spent – there’s no going back.
What needs to happen now is a public conversation among trustees about what to do about future surpluses. There is an argument for these transfers, but there are also other funding options. It is difficult to justify cuts to student programs when there is still significant cash left over at the end of each year.