The current amended budget for the Chilliwack School District is just over $174 million. It has been through two readings over two meetings and is slated for a third reading and adoption at the next board meeting on Feb. 23, 2021. (Jessica Peters/ Chilliwack Progress)

The current amended budget for the Chilliwack School District is just over $174 million. It has been through two readings over two meetings and is slated for a third reading and adoption at the next board meeting on Feb. 23, 2021. (Jessica Peters/ Chilliwack Progress)

Trustees ask to cut funding from current school year budget in Chilliwack

Amendment process of 2020/2021 school board budget moves through approval process

This school year’s budget is still moving through the approval process at the Chilliwack board of education table.

The board has one more meeting, Feb. 23, to approve the amended budget for 2020/2021 before it needs to be sent off to the Ministry of Education for their deadline. The board has been working with this budget all year, now sitting at just over $174 million, and the amendments are reflections of what has changed since it was first introduced.

And it’s bringing up a bit of confusion and concerns among various trustees.

“It is a balanced budget,” the district’s secretary treasurer, Gerry Slykhuis, told the board during the Feb. 9 meeting. “It was a challenging budget to balance.”

To get to a balanced budget, senior staff used hold back funding that’s expected later this year. Hold back funding is related to enrolments, and hasn’t been given to districts in about seven years, Slykhuis explained.

“In years when there is a declining enrolment, there is money at the end of the year and it’s released to the school districts,” he said, adding that they’ve been given an estimate from the ministry and will find out the exact amount in the late spring. “For seven years, enrolment has gone the other way (increased).”

Enrolment was lower than anticipated this year, he added, and hold back funding will be coming. He also repeated that next year’s budget will likely be even harder to balance. The district has been saving for a new school and a new addition at Vedder elementary.

But a few trustees weren’t convinced they had enough information to move forward with the amendments. Trustee Heather Maahs said she worries they are “robbing Peter to pay Paul” and creating a running deficit.

“Are there things we can do in this budget… to sort of stem the tide?” she asked Slykhuis. She suggested, for example, not purchasing certain vehicles.

Slykhuis explained that the amended budget reflects what has already been spent and is likely to be spent for the rest of the school year. Also, he said, pushing off one-time purchases such as vehicles just pushes the problem further down the road.

He said the time is coming up in the budget process to sit down with the 2021/2022 and “tighten the belt.” Senior staff will be coming to the board with some options.

“We really haven’t had any funding increase for inflation, for years and years,” Slykhuis said. “We’re at the point now where we have to make some fairly deep cuts for next year. There’s some tough decisions ahead, but we built this budget with a look ahead to the future.”

Trustee demands ‘closed-door meeting’

Trustee Darrell Furgason said that he believes the board should have a “closed-door meeting” and take out their pens and make cuts immediately, in the amended budget. However, all budget discussions take place in public budget committee meetings and public regular meetings, as he was told multiple times in the meeting by board chair Willow Reichelt.

Furgason does attend budget meetings. But he says he asked for a meeting with staff and the full board two weeks ago and hasn’t had one yet.

”I have not had any chance to ask any questions of the administration together with the board in that two weeks,” he said. “I asked for information and a meeting.”

After Trustee Jared Mumford reminded Furgason that the process takes place in the budget committee meetings, and at the board table, Furgason insisted on a private meeting.

“We need serious, total board discussion in private before we go public,” Furgason argued. He said they need to go “line by line” and discuss cuts.

Again, Mumford explained that the process was taking place as it usually does.

“We have had two weeks to scrutinize it in our own time,” Mumford said. “I’m not understanding if there are questions why are they not being presented right now in front of the public?”

Furgason, Maahs, Barry Neufeld and David Swankey voted against a third reading. That will be presented to the board at the Feb. 23 meeting.

READ MORE: Chilliwack school board mulls over ‘risky’ move to balance budget


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Chilliwack School District

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Free Reformed Church is seen as people attend service, in Chilliwack, B.C., on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021. Lawyers for the British Columbia government and the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms are back in B.C. Supreme Court today, squaring off over the legality of COVID-19 rules that prohibit in-person religious services. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. top doctor has power to restrict access to a place during health hazard: lawyer

Under B.C.’s Public Health Act, Jacqueline Hughes says, Henry can restrict or prevent entry to a place

These free, postage-paid postcards were sent to 13.5 households across Canada. Have you mailed yours? (Jennifer Feinberg/ The Chilliwack Progress)
OPINION: Singing the praises of these postcards of positivity

I typed this ode to the loveliness of hand-written notes on a computer but the point still stands

Snow is still coming down in Hemlock Valley. (Emil Anderson Maintenance/Twitter)
VIDEO: Spring is coming, but snow sticking around in Hemlock Valley

If you’re up the mountain, don’t put away your toques just yet

The incident occurred at approximately 10 a.m. amid heavy rains on the 29900 Block of the highway, near the Silverdale community. Shane MacKichan photo.
VIDEO: Late-night rollover crash on Lougheed Highway in Mission sends 2 to hospital

Jaws of Life used; patients sustained non-life threatening injuries

Sgt. Zi Shen Wang of 147 Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron in Chilliwack is one of 14 Canadian cadets to perform in the Commonwealth Day cadet band concert on March 8. (Submitted)
Chilliwack cadet to perform in international concert on Commonwealth Day

15-year-old Air Cadet Sgt. Zi Shen Wang one of 14 Canadian cadets to perform in concert

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

The Netflix logo on an iPhone. B.C. delayed imposing sales tax on digital services and sweetened carbonated beverages as part of its response to COVID-19. Those taxes take effect April 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matt Rourke
B.C. applies 7% sales tax on streaming, vaping, sweet drinks April 1

Measures from 2020 budget were delayed due to COVID-19

Chief Don Tom of the Tsartlip First Nation was outraged after Green MLA Adam Olsen revealed on social media that the community had been experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak – a fact the First Nation had chosen to keep private to avoid racist backlash as experienced by the Cowichan Tribes when an outbreak was declared there in January. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation ‘outraged’ after Green MLA reveals COVID-19 outbreak

Tsartlip First Nation chief shares concerns about racist backlash, MLA apologizes

A lawyer wears a face mask and gloves to curb the spread of COVID-19 while waiting to enter B.C. Supreme Court, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. British Columbia’s highest court has sided with the land owner in a dispute over public access to public land. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. high court finds in favour of large landowner in fight over access to pair of lakes

The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club launched legal action after the cattle company blocked road and trail access

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Friday, March 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau holds firm on premiers’ health-care funding demands, COVID-19 aid comes first

Premiers argue that the current amount doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
B.C. dentists and bus drivers want newly-approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine

BC Dental Association says dentists and their teams cannot treat patients remotely

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

President of the BC Teacher’s Federation (BCTF) Teri Mooring is calling for teachers to be vaccinated for COVID-19 by summer. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Why it’s ‘urgent’ B.C. teachers get vaccinated from COVID-19 before summer

President Teri Mooring says not enough is being done to prevent virus transmission in schools

Most Read