SD43 approves new spending for schools

Some SD43 concerts, middle school sports and other after-school activities likely won
Some SD43 concerts, middle school sports and other after-school activities likely won't be going ahead as members of the BC Teachers' Federation protest Bill 22, which they see as an attack on collective bargaining rights.
— image credit: TRI-CITY NEWS FILE PHOTO

More teachers, more counsellors and extra support for programs of choice were approved Tuesday as the board of eduction approved its richest budget in recent history.

This year School District 43 will spend $269.9 million to run classes next year, up from $265.1 million this year. The basic operating budget doesn't even include $3.1 million in extra funding for class size and composition improvements that has yet to be allocated and $2.4 million to support vulnerable kids in schools with counsellors, youth workers and other programs.

The budget was unanimously passed at a regular board meeting with little comment — a far cry from previous years when trustees also sent Victoria a "needs" budget listing things they would like to have but couldn't afford.

A proposal to hire a fine arts coordinator as requested by music teachers earlier this year was, however, voted down after chair Melissa Hyndes pointed out that making 11th-hour change to the budget would upset other groups who also wanted coordinators.

Port Coquitlam trustee John Keryluk, who proposed the addition, said fine arts are important to many students and suggested money could be found by cutting supply budgets. "We could find some or all of it in that area," Keryluk said.

He was supported by Port Moody trustee Keith Watkins who said the district used to have a fine arts coordinator but the position was cut because of budget constraints.

Although the budget includes a $6 million increase in provincial funding over last year, plus new money for vulnerable students, it contains an assumption that could prove risky.

Secretary Treasurer Rick Humphreys told the News the budget was balanced with the assumption the district would receive $3.1 million in hold back funds next year. Those grants are held back until enrollment is confirmed in September and the government doesn't always give it back.

In fact, the grants disappeared for three years running and were only reinstated last year. Humphreys said the district took a risk by including it but it was the only way the district could balance the budget, he said. "We're having to budget it this year," he confirmed.

As for extra spending, there was some room to  move with a $1.2 million surplus from this year, which enabled the district to hire a few extra staff for communications, clerical and payroll duties as well as replace a learning support teacher and add a work experience teacher. Another $125,000 will be spent to support programs of choice, such as Reggio Emilia, Montessori and a middle school gifted program and expand the International Baccalaureate program to another school.

Another $2.4 million in Community Link funding will go toward more counsellors and youth workers and $3.1 million in Learning Improvement Funds will be spent on Special Education Assistants and teachers dealing with complex classes.

As for the extra $6 million in provincial grants, Humphreys said the money has been rolled into the regular operating budget but is for specific programs.

Another bright spot on the revenue side of the balance sheet is the $15.7 million coming from fees foreign students pay to attend school here, which accounts for 5.8% of total revenues and will be spent on teachers and grants to schools.

Cafeteria revenue is also holding steady at $1.6 million, despite the move toward healthier options in schools.



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