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$11M budget surplus predicted for Tri-City schools

More international students than expected came to Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody schools to be educated, contributing $5 million in extra revenue.
International education fees and underspending on teaching salaries contributed to an anticipated $11 million budget surplus for 2021-2023.

School District 43 (SD43) is predicting an $11-million surplus for the end of the school year and has plans to sock most of the money away.

Roughly half of the surplus comes from higher-than-expected international education revenues and the remainder from underspending due to staffing challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It was fairly unavoidable," said SD43 board chair and Port Coquitlam trustee Michael Thomas.

The budget is typically conservative because districts can't overspend, said Thomas, who acknowledged that unprecedented staffing challenges resulted in less money paid out in salaries than anticipated.

Also contributing to the surplus was rental and investment income, which came in $350,000 and $100,000 over budget respectively.

Fees foreign students pay to attend schools in the district are expected to contribute nearly half of the total surplus at $5 million.

Thomas noted SD43 saw more students than expected and from a more diverse array of countries, owing to the fact that B.C. was in a better place to be able to accept students than eastern provinces.

He explained among the source countries during this last school year were Europe, and central and South America.

"International education is coming back stronger than initially anticipated," Thomas said, adding the district will be using the surplus cash to stabilize funding over the next three years.

"I would rather be in a position of surplus and be able to determine where the funds go than be in a deficit."

SD43 also spent less on benefits and supplies during the year, according to a report to the board of education.

A significant portion of the surplus will also go towards a contribution the district is making to build the joint Burke Mountain secondary/middle school.

As of yet, the district hasn't heard if the project will be funded, but the board has agreed to contribute $25 million.

Although final numbers aren't in until the June 30 year-end is concluded and audited, trustees agreed last Tuesday (June 21) to put surplus into the following reserve accounts:

  • $1.250 million = Education stabilization fund over each of the next three years
  • $625,000 each = Technology initiatives and facilities upgrades
  • $3.25 million = Restore the depleted Education Stabilization Reserve as past amounts were used for various initiatives
    • Supporting the required school board funding contribution for the Burke Mountain school capital project
  • $1 million = Unfunded Employment Standard Act (ESA) implementation of granting five paid sick days to casual and TTOC employees (teacher teaching on call)
  • $1.75 million = Burke Mountain school capital project, which will reduce the impact of future operating dollars being allocated to Burke Mountain
  • Remaining funds will be dispersed in future school years, starting in 2023-24