Delta school trustees on Tuesday (May 10) voted to approve the latest operating budget which contains tough cuts, while agreeing the right thing to do is not dip into millions in total projected reserves.
Facing a projected $2.74 million operating shortfall for next year, the school district put forward a budget that contains a series of reductions including staffing, with the most prominent being full-time equivalents in the Inclusive Learning department.
Those staff cuts will be spread across all schools in the district.
An anticipated drop of 293 full-time enrolled students for the 2022/23 school year, increased costs as well as special funding being eliminated, combined with the province not increasing per-pupil funding and revenue falling from the once lucrative International Student Program were all factors in the budget process.
Trustees during their online meeting Tuesday lamented the province’s lack of a funding increase, saying it’s students who will be impacted by the decision.
“With better funding, the Delta School District has been able to accelerate growth and innovation,” said Trustee Laura Dixon. “This year’s funding announcement does not afford us those same opportunities. At a time when we are doing our best to recover from the challenges of the past two years, I’m disappointed that the funding has stalled. Nothing costs the same this year as it did last year…I believe this provincial government shares the priorities in our Vision 2030 document and our strategic plan, but what I’m saying to Victoria is stand-still funding does not get us there.”
Board chair Val Windsor also described the province’s lack of funding as very disappointing, especially during these times, while trustee Bruce Reid said the district was left with very little wiggle room.
The situation the Delta Board of Education faces is in sharp contrast to the education ministry’s statement earlier this year that increased funding for schools to support enrolment growth is part of the province’s commitment to provide the best possible educational experience for students.
The district last year and in previous years balanced the books in part by dipping into reserves, carrying over a deficit.
It’s something that’s not on the table this time around.
Part of new reporting requirements, Secretary Treasurer Nicola Christ went into a detailed explanation of the district’s 2022/23 estimated accumulated operating surplus, saying they are needed to mitigate financial risk if there are unusual or unanticipated expenses.
A report on the budget and the district’s reserve situation will be made public on the district’s website by the end of the current school year.