Budget redo for Chilliwack school district

Clerical error starts the budget process all over again for Chilliwack school district.

A clerical error had the school district starting over with its 2012-13 budget approval process at Tuesday night’s school board meeting.

Chilliwack trustees were advised by staff to rescind all motions presented at the May 8 board of education meeting and start anew.

“This really is a Murphy’s Law budget,” said secretary treasurer Maureen Carradice.

“It was well and truly a clerical error and some miscommunications between our staff and the trustees.”

The error, which was spotted by one of the local newspapers, had $2.4 million allocated under the estimated salary costs when it should have been allocated to support staff costs.

As well, there was a typographical error in the budget’s total amount in the May 8 motions that were presented.

“The bottom line reality of this whole situation is this, we have quite a number of people at the senior level of this organization in new roles… we’ve also been quite short staffed through most of the year,” said Carradice, who has been doing double duty as secretary treasurer and director of human resources for the past year.

“So the truth is, we didn’t proofread the documents as well as we probably should have.”

The positive that came out of the situation when corrected, however, revealed that  despite an estimated increase of three full-time equivalent teachers for the next school year there will be a $2.1 million reduction in teacher salary and benefit costs. The reason is due to teachers at the high-end pay scale retiring and being replaced by entry level teachers.

Those funds will go back into the district’s surplus.

Despite the error, which had no effect on the budget’s bottom line, Carradice made a point of acknowledging this budget as a good news budget for the district.

With the budget, the district plans to spend just over $112 million. Of that, approximately $2.1 million will come out of the district’s $6 million surplus to add staff, support vulnerable students and embark on an ambitious technical upgrade of all schools, among other initiatives.

“In many areas we are above where we were prior to the major budget cuts [of the 2010-11 school year],” said Carradice.

Still, one trustee was not satisfied.

Trustee Heather Maahs criticized staff for not engaging in a public process like it had in previous years, and felt too much money was going to areas that won’t improve the district’s student achievement and graduation rates.

A special meeting will be held tonight for third and final reading of the preliminary budget, which will then be sent off to the Ministry of Education for approval.