Budget approved

With an increase in the funding from the Ministry as well as an increase in enrolment, the School District No. 83 Board of Education gave three readings and approval to a $83,352,048 budget for 2019-20, which is up from last year.

The majority of this budget, $67,584,768 is the district’s operating grant along with $2,381,532 from other revenue (includes other Ministry grants, provincial grants, rentals and investment income). The remainder of the budget is special purpose funds (funds from Ministry for specific purpose such as StrongStart and CommunityLINK) or capital funds (such as annual facility grant, bus replacement and school enhancement).

After a slate of meetings by the budget development committee, a public meeting and a survey the Board has determined the following spending priorities:

Instruction Program Changes
In an effort to continue to increase graduation rates, including students with special needs, to improve numeracy levels across the district, to better address student wellbeing, and to support teachers in adapting to new curriculum, additional teaching time has been included in the proposed 2019-20 draft budget as follows:
• .7 FTE Counselling Teacher
• .6 FTE Literacy Intervention Teacher
• .1 FTE Vision Teacher
• .4 FTE Inclusive Support Program Teacher
• .5 FTE Tech Ed Teacher
• .6 FTE Numeracy Teacher
Also included, is a reduction in the Sexual Health/SOGI Lead Teaching time of .2 FTE. The net increase in cost for these changes is close to $257,000.

Administration Increase/Decreases
• An increase of .6 FTE and .2 FTE in administrative staffing is included for a District Principal of Numeracy and a District Vice Principal of Music, respectively. The combined cost for this is expected to be just over $115,000 for both in 2019-20.
• Close to $77,000 for teacher release time has been included to provide for Teacher Pro-D initiatives and training, and for the new teacher/admin induction program.
• A total of 4 FTE trades staff wages and benefits will be allocated directly to the operational portion of the district’s 2019-20 Annual Facility Grant. Trades staff will be assigned to capital projects throughout the district. This results in a decrease of operational costs of $250,000.
• DPAC’s request for $5,350 has been included.
• An allocation of $106,134 is included to fund the reinstatement of the Manager of Facilities and Grounds position that was vacated in 2016.

Program Enhancement/Other Costs
• Funding for the Insight Data Tracking, used to track students’ PM Benchmarks, SNACC, etc. is included in this budget, at an additional cost of $20,000.

Cameron also explained that in an effort to ensure full transparency and ensure that all operational funds are considered through the budget process, minor capital requirements that may have formerly been funded through transfers of operational funds to local capital, are included as line items in the proposed operating budget. The budgets included for 2019-20 are as follows:
• $225,000 to support the 4-year district-wide technology refresh plan
• $28,000 to upgrade and replace maintenance shop tools and custodial equipment
• $50,000 to upgrade school shop classrooms
• $72,750 to refresh and maintenance white fleet to ensure staff safety and to avoid increased maintenance and repair costs
All anticipated and proposed expense increases and decreases result in a net total increase in budgeted operational expenses of $2,519,098.

Vice Chairperson Quentin Bruns commented he is glad they are able to add to the district, rather than have to cut. “It’s very nice to be in this situation. I found the process to be very open and inclusive with a lot of good information shared. All those things are conducive to us being able to make better decisions.”

He added he was very happy to see the full time numeracy position which he feels will be a real help.

Trustee Marty Gibbons commented that he felt the budget was a compromise that he can live with. “I’m not happy with everything but I can live with it. We need to work together to find ways to support teachers and classrooms.”

Trustee Amanada Krebs, who chaired the budget committee, commented she was in support of the budget. “I like the status quo for education assistants and the additional .5 for the tech education teacher. The one thing that drew my eye is that we don’t have a very large contingency fund and it is outside of the bounds set in our policy. In the budget we’ve assumed we’re not getting tuition from any international students so hopefully we do get some and that will bring in some funds.”

Trustee Tennile Lachmuth commented she appreciated that the budget committee and senior leadership took suggestions to get the budget to where it is, and that she was, overall, in support of the budget. She noted she was pleased to see the increase in Inclusive Education.

Board Chair Marianne VanBuskirk thanked the budget committee, trustees, and senior leadership for all the hours that go into building the budget and making it such a transparent process. She gave special thanks to Secretary-Treasurer Alanna Cameron for all of her efforts.

VanBuskirk and several other trustees mentioned their disappointment in not being able to keep the energy manager in the budget. “That’s the only thing I disagree with in this budget,” she commented. Bruns noted that the position was one that people in the various groups all supported, which he thought was quite telling. Gibbons countered saying that trustees couldn’t guarantee it would be cost neutral.

Additional information from Secretary-Treasurer
Draft 2019-20 budget bylaw

Earlier in the meeting Cameron reported that in working towards its strategic goal to improve equity in the system, the Ministry has increased funding rates for 2019-20 in specific areas in an effort to support students with special needs, Indigenous education and rural students.

“Based on the preliminary operating grants announced on March 15, 2019, the school district is projected to receive $67,584,768 in operating grant funding. This allocation is a net increase of $1,273,202 from last year’s interim grant allocation and is due to an increase in projected
student enrolment combined with the additional funding for labour settlements with teachers and support staff that took effect late in the 2018-19 school year, including the Economic Stability Dividend and increases to elementary prep time.”

After working through known funded and unfunded cost pressures as well as recognized cost savings, she estimated the district has $1.16 million to put into budget priorities.

A budget development committee (which includes trustee and chair of the committee Amanda Krebs, the senior leadership team, the Director of Finance, Director of Operations, two reps each from the principals’ association, teachers’ association, CUPE, District Parent Advisory Committee and First Nations Education Council) has been meeting regularly since the beginning of March discussing implications, hearing presentations from departments, considering feedback and making recommendations to the Board on budget priorities.

The purpose of the Budget Committee was to provide an interactive forum for open communication and understanding of the budget. The committee was to provide the Board with representative advice on budget issues, including feedback on the implications of proposed changes, advice on new priorities and emerging opportunities, and recommendations on how the Board might best align resources in support of the three established goals within the district’s Strategic Plan.

The Committee met seven times from March through May, 2019. The meetings provided an opportunity for:
• trustees to hear directly from the field through a facilitated interactive group discussion around key educational topics/issues;
• partner groups to present and share values and perspectives directly with trustees and the senior leadership team;
• discuss and consideration of the implications of the preliminary operating grant announcement and any potential budget shortfall or enhancement;
• direct interaction and communication with all management staff;
• an in-depth presentation and discussion of each department’s background, current goals and objectives, key strategies to achieve established goals, the performance measures in place to ensure success, and detail of past, current and projected finances;
• consideration and discussion of input from the public budget consultation meeting.

A public budget consultation meeting was held on Wednesday, May 1, 2019. The public was provided with general information on how school districts are funded and the Ministry of Education’s established regulation related to annual budget submission. The Board’s 2019-20 preliminary budget development process was discussed, detail of known or anticipated revenue
changes and cost pressures/savings were shared, and the preliminary budget priorities and initiatives were proposed for 2019-20. The public was given an opportunity to provide feedback and ask questions. A public budget survey was also sent out.