Shrinking district reserve causes alarm

District Parents' Advisory Council treasurer questions school district as to where $823,000 of unrestricted reserves disappeared to.

What happened to $823,000 of the school district’s unrestricted reserves?

That was the question posed to Chilliwack board of education at Tuesday’s public meeting.

Don Davis, treasurer of the District Parents’ Advisory Council, and a member of the school district’s finance committee, questioned the loss of more than $823,000 from the school district’s unrestricted reserves since June.

We’re not talking about a year here, he told The Progress after the meeting, we’re talking a couple of months.

At the last finance committee meeting held in June, the school district’s preliminary estimates showed approximately $1.3 million in unrestricted reserves, $500,000 of which would be going to the final implementation of the district-wide technology upgrade. However, in the final audit released last week, that reserve fund had depleted to $532,768.

“We asked how close those numbers [preliminary estimate] were and were told they were pretty close, but the reality wasn’t the case,” said Davis.

“I am extremely concerned.”

Secretary treasurer Gerry Slykhuis couldn’t detail exactly where those monies were allotted, as he wasn’t working for the board at the time, and the school district’s director of finance James Richards has been off on medical leave. However, he noted that $800,000 is not a huge amount in the grand scheme of the total $125 million budget.

“It’s a half per cent,” he said. “I’m not saying $800,000 is not a significant amount, but when you have so many schools,1,800 staff… if your sick time goes up one per cent in a year, there goes $800,000 and change very quickly.

“There’s a lot of factors that can swing $800,000 in your overall final results.”

Still, with the school district’s current financial pressures, including $700,000 for the CUPE contract, and $50,000 for the byelection, Davis is concerned with how fast the “rainy day” fund is depleting, and fears the cuts that may come.

“Something has to give,” he said.

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