With more teachers coming due to a Supreme Court of Canada decision, Chilliwack school district is recruiting more teachers. (Black Press file)

With more teachers coming due to a Supreme Court of Canada decision, Chilliwack school district is recruiting more teachers. (Black Press file)

Chilliwack school district rolls out preliminary budget

As classroom language restored, Chilliwack schools need to accomodate more divisions, teachers and staff

So far, there are no big shocks in the 2017/2018 budget for the school district.

The long process of creating and approving the district’s budget is underway, with presentations of preliminary budget assumptions to the budget committee, the school board, and to the public. The budget process gets started in mid-March every year after the provincial government announces its own budget.

The district’s preliminary budget is due to the province by June 30, and is still subject to several readings.

Last year’s budget for the Chilliwack School District was just over $145 million. Early budget assumptions for this year takes into account things like enrolment projections, revenue projects and major cost drivers.

Enrolment projections have become an important part of the budget over the past few years, as Chilliwack is attracting more and more families. Another 300 students are expected to enrol in September, bringing the total number of students here to about 14,000 — one thousand more students than just three school years ago.

With schools already bursting with students, this could prove a challenge next year, noted Gerry Slykhuis, secretary treasurer.

Smaller class sizes take effect in September, following the Supreme Court ruling in December that restored class compositions. And that will require an additional 35 classrooms across the district, and 35 new teachers along with an undetermined number of support staff positions.

“In schools that are already full we’re going to have smaller classes,” he said. “We’re out of space here (the board office) as well, with six more people in the board office.”

The district is already working on filling the positions that will be needed to meet the need. They will also be adding a new bus route for the Promontory area that will bring students off the mountain to the overflow schools, as well as increasing custodial staff positions.

Slykhuis has noted a few key cost changes in presentations this month, including recruiting incentives at $53,000. The need for more teachers is province-wide, and there is already a TOC shortage in this region. Bonuses such as helping with moving costs are being offered in some cases, Slykhuis said.

BC Hydro costs have increased and will continue to do so. An increase took place this month at 3.5 per cent, and another 3 per cent increase is coming in April 2018, for a total increase of $33,000.

Custodial supplies have also increased, adding $15,000 to the budget.

The biggest change in the budget is the Classroom Enhancement Fund, at just over $5 million. This is interim funding for the changes in effect due to the Supreme Court ruling, and will probably change, Slykhuis said.

“If it costs more we’ll get more,” he said. “And if it costs less they’ll take the money back.”

Restoring classroom language also brings in increased overhead costs, he noted, as the new teachers will need items like their own desks, chairs, and computers.

Last week, the most updated Five Year Capital Plan was also introduced. The district is continuing to push for a new school site to help alleviate crowding, and was given a small bit of encouragement from the province recently.

The district has been given $75,000 “to pursue the potential of a new school,” Board chair Trustee Paul McManus said at last Tuesday’s board meeting.

“No school yet but it’s a good sign,” he added. The money will pay for a project definition report that will be submitted to the province in September.

Other projects approved include an electrical upgrade at A.D. Rundle middle, safety enhancements at Chilliwack and Vedder middle schools, a mechanical upgrade at Vedder elementary, and the funding for five new school buses.