Modest improvements in SD43 budget

Plan is to keep teachers and support workers — even add a few — thanks to fees foreign students pay as well as some surplus and efficiencies

School District 43 is facing the prospect of a drop in enrolment in September that could cost it almost $1 million in lost revenue.

But trustees are planning to retain teachers and support workers — even add a few — thanks to fees foreign students pay as well as some surplus and efficiencies.

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"It's good to know we're doing better than we were," board chair Judy Shirra said following Tuesday's budget presentation at Winslow Centre.

The numbers presented show revenue forecasts of $289.3 million for 2016/’17, down slightly from $291.5 million for the current school year.

Next year's revenue is expected to be lower partly due to 143 fewer FTE students and a prediction that there will be 400 fewer international education students than the record 1,800 who showed up last September.
The district also plans to charge them more: $14,000, up from $13,000.

It's also banking on a $2-million surplus this year, a portion of which will be used to smooth bumps in class size and composition, plus $2.1 million in reduced teacher pension plan rates.

The funds will help the district keep teachers, youth workers and educational positions it may otherwise have lost, said SD43's assistant secretary treasurer, Chris Nicol.
But some aren't happy with the plan.

Coquitlam Trustee Diane Sowden said things haven't improved much in schools after services were cut two years ago. "We are no way near where we were," she said at Tuesday's meeting.

School library assistants said they were concerned library resources cut in previous years haven't been added back. "With new curriculum coming, it's a concern," said Penny Hook, a library assistant.

For Coquitlam Teachers' Association president Charley King, job retention for CTA members is key. He said he's pleased to see some new teaching posts added but said the district could do more if funding kept up with inflation.
"The bulk of new hires is generated by an enrolment increase [this school year]. It's not like it's an increase in service levels," he said.

Still, If the budget is approved, there will be some new hires in September, including 16 secondary school lunch hour supervisors, positions that were cut two years ago, plus an internet technology co-ordinator and three vice-principals.

The district also plans to add back a speech and language pathologist, a psychiatrist and a learning assistance teacher that were cut previously, creating backlogs in services.

It also has to pay back $1.25 million of its remaining $2.5-million debt and find $1.4 million in administrative savings required by the provincial government.

Meanwhile, the 143 FTE fewer students, while a hit on the revenue side, won't necessarily save the district money because the shortfall is spread between grades and schools and doesn't necessarily translate into needing fewer teachers or support workers.

The next budget meeting will hear from delegations on Tuesday, April 19 in the gym at Winslow Centre (1100 Winslow Ave., Coquitlam) starting at 6 p.m.

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