School district taps into surplus to balance budget

The Chilliwack school district's 2010-11 budget has undergone several changes since the preliminary budget was first approved last spring.

The Chilliwack school district’s 2010-11 budget has undergone several changes since the preliminary budget was first approved last spring.

The final budget passed at Tuesday night’s board meeting had less students, more teachers, more educational assistants, more revenues and more expenses than were initially projected.

The district’s revenue was $2.1 million more than was projected, but the expenses were $3.5 million more than expected. As a result, an extra $1.3 million was taken out of the district’s surplus account to cover the added expenses.

It was estimated the Chilliwack school district would have 13,166 total students enrolled this year, an increase of 102 students from last year. But instead, it had 13,102 students, 64 less than it had projected.

However, the district did not lose funds in per pupil funding as would be expected, but rather gained funds.

The Ministry of Education doesn’t distribute all of the per-pupil funding at once, it holds back a portion of the grant until final numbers are submitted. And because school districts across the province over estimated projections for enrollment this year, the ministry had extra per-pupil funding to give.

In Chilliwack, that meant $1.1 million more was granted to the district, about $88 extra per student.

But June Murphy, director of finance, warned trustees that it was one-time money only.

“[The ministry] hasn’t increased the actual per pupil rate, it’s just a one-time hold back amount,” said Murphy. “It may not be there next year.”

The preliminary budget also showed a cut of 16.2 educational assistants, but because enrollment for special needs students increased by 21 students, 20.7 additional educational assistants were required. As a result, the district actually employed 4.5 more educational assistants than it had in the 2009-10 school year.

The district had also planned to cute the teaching staff by 20 teachers, but ended up reducing the cuts to 13.3 to accommodate class size and composition regulations.

The final budget came in at $108.8 million, a difference of $3.5 million from the preliminary budget.

kbartel@theprogress.com