SD 5 board passes balanced budget – no cuts to programs despite shortfall

School District 5 Trustees passed a balanced budget at last week’s board meeting in Cranbrook. The board was facing a net funding shortfall of $1,050,000 for next year’s budget, which follows last year’s shortfall of $993,000 according to SD5 board chair Frank Lento.

“While very little has changed in the way of enrolment projections or programming needs we find ourselves - once again - with less money this year than we had last year. It puts us in the difficult position of Funding Protection from the Education Ministry for the coming school year.”

Funding Protection is an additional amount provided to school districts to ensure funding levels for the upcoming fall are at least equal to the funding levels received last autumn. Funding Protection is currently under review by the Ministry of Education and has not been confirmed for future years.

Trustee Chris Johns points out that the current funding formula for districts works fine in a world where prices never go up, but that’s not the world in which we live. Inflation alone produces cost increases to the district of over one million dollars year over year. In addition to inflation the district also has to pay for carbon offsets, MSP premium increases, BC Hydro rate increases, and the HST.

Johns also advises that while the provincial government hasn’t provided enough funding to run SD5 operations at the same level as last year, they still require Districts to balance their books.

“And that, unfortunately, means more cuts,” says Johns. Lento emphasized that the Board wanted to keep cuts as far away from students as possible but given last year’s cuts it was a tall order.

According to Trustee Dan Hall a significant portion of the budget shortfall has been offset by using the last of the Board’s $775,000 reserve funds.

Although this year’s budget once again reflects the Board’s commitment to ensure that no educational programs were cut, they intend to submit a “needs budget” alongside the legislated balanced budget.

Lento believes that the board has gone as far as it can in trying to make ends meet without adversely affecting the future educational opportunities for students in the district.

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