School delves into budget

The Chilliwack school district is busy formulating next year's budget, and held its first ever budget committee on April 4.

The Chilliwack school district is busy formulating next year’s budget, and held its first ever budget committee on April 4. The district is expecting up to $3.9 million in additional costs for the 2013-14 year, and has not yet devised a plan for covering this.

With the ministry’s recent increase to the per pupil cost, the district should see a slightly larger total basic allocation grant.

However, district staff estimate that increases in Teacher Pension Plan costs, BC Hydro rates, and the cost of converting back to the PST will suck a further $1.8 million out of the budget. And, with the signing of next year’s collective agreements, the district expects 1.5 per cent raises to support and teaching staff salaries, adding a further $2.1 million to the expense list.

The district has been opening up its budget deliberations to the public.

53 people replied to the online budget survey. Common themes were needing more librarians, reducing administrative staff, improving support for at-risk and special education students, and upgrading technology. The full results are online. The district will present a survey summary at the May 2 budget committee meeting.

The district’s public budget consultation meeting on March 27 brought several interest groups to voice their priorities.

The Chilliwack Teachers’ Association wants to see increases to non-enrolling teachers such as librarians, a reduction in class sizes, and a decrease in wait times for district testing.

The Chilliwack Principals’ and Vice Principals’ Association says that higher salaries for administrators will bring higher quality staff, that there should be more special education support, and that at-risk learners should have more resources.

The Aboriginal Education Advisory Committee, on its part, would like to see a continuation of funding for aboriginal programming, a part-time teacher to incorporate aboriginal content into curricula, and cultural awareness training for district staff.

The Chilliwack school district is due to present next year’s budget at the May 14 school board meeting, and approve the budget by May 28.

The district is expecting 11,804 regular students for next September. The total expected number for next year is about even with enrollments the past three years.