School district facing $4.5 million deficit

Increase in funding from higher enrolment wasn't enough to make up for rise in expenses. First public information meeting tonight.

Abbotsford School District secretary-treasurer Ray Velestuk.

Abbotsford School District secretary-treasurer Ray Velestuk.

The Abbotsford School District will draw heavily on its cash reserves as it faces a larger-than-expected shortfall in its amended 2016 budget.

While higher enrolment numbers brought more per-student funding from the provincial government, those increases weren’t enough to make up for increased instructional expenses.

The district now expects to use nearly $4.5 million from its accumulated surplus reserves to balance its budget. That total is nearly twice the number expected when the district passed its first budget, prior to receiving the Ministry of Education’s operating grant for the year.

The district received $2.5 million in extra provincial funding, but saw costs increase by double that number. That money went to raises for principals and vice-principals, an increased number of special needs education assistants, and costs associated with vendor contracts and the implementation of the Next Generation Network, a province-wide improvement to school’s technology infrastructure.

Money from the district’s operating fund, which stood at $12.1 million at the beginning of the year, will be used to offset the deficit. But as the district gets set to prepare its 2016-17 budget, secretary-treasurer Ray Velestuk knows the budget will have to be balanced soon.

The district will hold a public information meeting March 3 at 7 p.m. in the Community Library conference room at Abbotsford Senior Secondary. A follow-up meeting will be held April 13 at 7 p.m. at the school district’s offices.

Beyond funding for teachers’ pay raises, Velestuk said the Ministry of Education budget shows little increase in funding to help school districts with additional costs. Velestuk said that means the district will likely have to make some budget cuts.

“We’re going to have to get rid of this $4.5 million deficit at some point,” he said.