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Chilliwack school district faces $3.1 million shortfall

Chilliwack school district is facing a $3.1 million dollar shortfall, but it's not a budget to get worked up over. Yet.

The 2014/15 budget will be first introduced to school trustees on Tuesday.

The district is not planning to balance the budget through job cuts, but rather attrition and reorganization.

With retirements coming from custodians, educational assistants and teachers, the district is looking at reorganizing departments to maximize efficiency with less.

"We're going to give it until September," said secretary treasurer Gerry Slykhuis. "If we still don't have the numbers, we may have to do something in September, but we're pretty confident we'll get enough retirements that we'll be okay … as long as we don't do a bunch of hires."

The budget presentation will point out several financial constraints the school district is facing.

Things like the four per cent CUPE wage increase to be fully implemented next year; the 15 per cent BC Hydro rate increase; increases to employee benefits; and the potential for teacher and other staff wage increases currently being negotiated.

As well, the cost pressures from several initiatives including continuing to implement recommendations from the special education review published last year; implementation of a new student information system; early intervention programs; and leadership development.

There's a decline in enrollment at Fraser Valley Distance Education school, government funding uncertainty, the potential impact of the BC Supreme Court ruling on class size and composition, space issues, and more.

"We've got about $1.1 million in cost pressures," said Slykhuis, "and then about $1.2 million in less revenues."

Slykhuis would have preferred to present the board with a budget in the black, but acknowledged sometimes a tight budget is good for the operation as a whole.

"Sometimes a tight budget gives you an opportunity to do some things that you should have been doing anyway," he said.

"That said, I don't want two years in a row of this because then it starts to really hurt and we don't want to go there."

The overall budget is $125 million, of which the $3.5 million shortfall accounts for 2.5 per cent.

The public board meeting is on Tuesday, May 6 at 7 p.m.

For a further breakdown of the school district's financial constraints, visit the website: http://www.sd33.bc.ca/news/mar-6-public-budget-presentation-201415-operating-budget

kbartel@theprogress.com

twitter.com/schoolscribe33

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