Chilliwack school board budget includes $1.3 million ‘cushion’

Still unclear how many portables will be ready for September school start

Next year’s school budget in Chilliwack is currently sitting at $156,018,539, after passing second and final reading on Tuesday night (May 23).

The preliminary 2017/18 budget is going through the months-long process of approval.

Of that budget, just over $1 million is earmarked for capital expenditures. And about half of that ($500,000) is going toward the purchase of new portables to be placed around the district. The budget also makes room for a new backhoe/loader at $160,000, replacing the current one that was purchased used more than 20 years ago.

Other items on the purchase list include new heavy equipment and vehicles, such as a new cube van at $60,480, a tractor with a snow blower for $80,000, one-ton four-by-four crew cab shop truck ($60,000) and a replacement van ($25,000).

The district is also purchasing a large generator for Cultus Lake elementary, for emergencies such as road closures combined with power outages.

“At the very least, the toilets can’t even flush without power,” Gerry Slykhuis, secretary treasurer noted at a previous meeting.

Some of the smaller items in the capital expenditure are an air compressor for the bus garage ($17,500), a small interior manlift ($23,500), a camera for checking drains ($10,250), an ionizing floor scrubber ($25,000) and new software ($10,000).

The budget will receive a third reading and vote at the final board meeting on June 13 so it can be passed along to the Ministry of Education for review. Even then, the budget can be amended to reflect actual costs for variables like staffing costs, which are dependent on enrolment.

Slykhuis noted that the budget is “conservative” because it is an election year.

“Money is generally tighter in the year after an election,” he said, regardless of who is voted in. He has worked in a $1.3 million surplus “so we’ll be going into the next year with some cushion in the budget.”

Trustee Bob Patterson thanked district staff for the budget and said it “reflects the strategic plan.”

Trustee Silvia Dyck moved that the board approve second and final reading “to allow staff to get on with the work at hand.”

Portables ordered

The Ministry of Education has informed the Chilliwack School District it will pay for 16 new portables. However, those probably won’t be ready in time for the first week of school.

To give the board an idea of the pressing situation for space, Slykhuis noted that the two portables they ordered in March will arrive in August. The five portables they ordered two weeks ago will be ready by mid-September.

The 16 newly-approved portables have not yet been ordered, so there is no estimate for their arrival. However, the portables will be needed to accommodate all the classrooms needed in the fall. Chilliwack is not unique in the need, it was noted during Tuesday’s meeting. Each of the province’s 61 districts requires at least one, if not multiple portables, to be delivered as soon as possible.

The ministry covers the actual portables, and all installation costs, but the cost to maintain them falls into the district’s facilities budget.