Not enough in reserves for new Chilliwack elementary school

Budget reading includes news that reserves are under a million dollars

There isn’t enough money in the bank for the new south side elementary school, the Chilliwack school board learned this week.

The information came out of the first budget reading for the 2019/20 school year, delivered by secretary-treasurer Gerry Slykhuis. The school district is expected to kick in $5 million for the much-needed school.

The district put aside an initial $500,000 for the school. This year, $1 million was taken from reserves for the project, and another $1 million is budgeted to come out of next school year’s budget. But after that, as it stands the reserves will be sitting just below $1 million.

READ MORE: Chilliwack aims high in school funding request

“This will deplete our funds,” Slykhuis said. “This is a break-even budget but we are dipping into our reserves a million dollars to do that.”

The site for the south side school was purchased in the spring of 2017, and ground hasn’t been broken yet. It is set to be a Kindergarten to Grade 8 school, fitting on a narrow 12.4 acre strip close to the river at the end of Tyson Road. When built, the school will follow the same Neighbourhood Learning Centre model as Chilliwack secondary school, with extra gym space, a daycare, pre-school, and room for partnership offices. It will have room for 80 kindergarten students, 325 Grades 1 through 5 students, and 500 Grades 6 through 8 students.

“We still have to come up with $2.5 million for the project to be completed,” Slykhuis said.

The school will eventually help with overcrowding at the south side schools. But the purchase of portables in the meantime is one of the higher budget items that is eating away at funds. Next year’s budget includes $750,000 for portables alone. As for the new arts and tech high school going in at the old UFV theatre site on Yale Road, the funding for renovations to the building will be coming from the government, Slykhuis said.

The first reading of the budget earned a unanimous vote and will come back to the trustees for second and third reading at an upcoming meeting. The budget as it stands is set at $158,109,475.


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