Delta trustees still in dark as budgeting process nears

The Delta board of education wants to remain optimistic but is preparing for the worst.

That’s what trustees conveyed at their most recent meeting during discussion on the upcoming budget process.

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Of particular concern is whether the province’s new funding formula, which districts still have little detail about, could see Delta end up with a smaller slice of the overall funding pie.

“We’ll have some sleepless nights until it’s released. The last time they did a funding review, we lost 50 per cent of our transportation budget that went to other districts,” said chair Val Windsor, referring to Delta having to eliminate its busing program for most students.

Trustee Bruce Reid said he’s optimistic everything will work out but is also prepared for the worst.

Trustee Laura Dixon agreed, saying the B.C. School Trustees Association has been lobbying to get more information about the new funding formula from the Ministry of Education well ahead of beginning the budgeting process.

The ministry announced two years ago it would undertake a review of the annual funding formula. The plan was originally to introduce the new formula last spring with implementation for the 2019/20 school year, but the ministry later announced there would be no changes for this school year.

Instead, the government's education partners formed working groups to provide advice on how to move forward on key themes in a report by an independent review panel.

It raised a series of concerns and made 22 recommendations.

The Delta School District’s submission, which included input from local education partners, included such recommendations as the province allocating funding for specific special student needs first and then allocate the remainder of funding based on a per-student amount.

Dixon last week noted the ministry has made it clear it intends to implement the new formula this year, adding “it’s been frustrating to say the least” that trustees are starting a budgeting process not having any idea of the funding model they’ll be working under.

District secretary treasurer Nicola Christ said the ministry has indicated it will announce funding allocations to districts by March 13.

The Delta district will then have to work with those numbers release its proposed budget by April 9. The board is scheduled to adopt its budget by April 21.

The district’s operating budget for 2019/20 didn’t include any cuts to balance the books and even managed a small surplus at $63,000.

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