Chilliwack school district moves more than $5 million out of reserves

Deadline nears for 2017/18 SD33 budget approval

The school board almost got through three readings of an amended version of its current annual budget, for a total of $157,123,324.

But the process was stopped by a hesitant trustee, Dan Coulter, who voted against the third and final reading of the amendment at the board’s Jan. 30 meeting. Trustee Silvia Dyck remains on medical leave.

“I think allowing trustees some time to digest what they have heard and come back to a subsequent meeting with any more questions they may have is a good thing,” he said after the meeting.

The amendment is the final step in the long budget process, in which the local school district works back and forth with the Ministry of Education in regards to funding equations. And this current year has been one with plenty of ups and downs, says the district’s secretary treasurer.

“I’ve never seen so many dramatic changes to our budget as what we’ve had this year and it’s been a very large challenge dealing with the ins and outs,” Gerry Slykhuis told the board.

The overview presented to the board focused mostly on the operating fund, which deals with portions of the budget that the board has the most control over.

Despite the ups and downs, and bringing in $5.3 million in reserves for some large projects, Slykhuis says the budget is balanced and the district is in good shape.

One of the problems with the initial budget, and a problem every year is that districts are asked to forecast what their enrolment will be the following year. Chilliwack had miscalculated by about 50 too many students, leaving them short about $500,000 in FTE payments. The district also has seen a drop in about $1.1 million in revenue from their distributed learning program, Fraser Valley Distance Education School. (See related story).

The average teacher salary in the district is down due to the number of new teachers (who are paid less), so teacher salaries are down almost $500,000.

Renovations to the old Fraser Valley Distance Education site is about $858,000, for learning services staff to move into the building. There is also a cost of about $387,000 of supplies and service costs to help with teacher training related to reconfiguration for next year.

There is also a property purchase that remains confidential that is about $1.5 million.

At the end of the year, the district is only going to be left with about $1.7 million in their reserve fund.

“It’s a little lower than I would be comfortable with,” Slykhuis said. “However we did have a lot of one time expenditures to deal with this year that I don’t see us doing every year.”

The board will look at the amended budget again at the Feb. 13 meeting, when it was originally scheduled for its second and third reading. Trustee Heather Maahs had made a motion to move through all three readings at the Jan. 30 meeting. However, for a fast-tracked reading in that manner, the entire board must vote unanimously.

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