School District 68 projected surplus could mean no cuts to next year’s budget

Thanks to a projected surplus this year, the school district won't have to make reductions to next year’s budget, says secretary-treasurer.

The secretary-treasurer of the Nanaimo-Ladysmith School District is expecting the school district will not have to make any reduction’s to next year’s budget.

A draft budget for School District 68 for 2012-13 was presented during a special meeting of the board of education’s business committee Wednesday night.

Secretary-treasurer Phil Turin told the committee that thanks to a projected surplus this year, the district will not be required to make any reductions to next year’s budget, according to a report from the school district.

Turn did caution, however, that the district has a significant structural budget deficit that must be dealt with in the coming years.

Superintendent Dave Hutchinson outlined how the district’s strategic plan will influence future budgets and said that future budgets will centre on the district’s strategic plan goals focusing on improving student learning, according to the report.

“Initial work on the strategic plan will start this spring and is expected to be completed next fall,” it states. “The process will include extensive consultation with parents, students, employees and the public.”

Because the 2012-13 budget will be approved by May, it will not include any specific strategic planning initiatives but should give sufficient flexibility for some initiatives to start in 2012-13, said Hutchinson.

Turin told the business committee that the projected difference between revenue and expenditure next year is $1.6 million and that senior management is proposing that the district use $1.6 million in surplus from this year to balance next year’s budget.

Turin warned, however, that the current district budget levels are not sustainable over the long term.

Next year, the school district expects to receive $4 million of funding protection in its Ministry of Education grant. Funding protection has been provided to districts to cushion the funding loss that comes with declining enrolment, but the amount of the grant is gradually being reduced.

Turin said that this year’s surplus is due to the funding protection grant the district has received this year, and next year, the $4 million of funding protection, combined with the use of $1.6 million in surplus, means that the district budget actually has a structural deficit of $5.6 million.

“Because of funding protection, we have a window of opportunity to make changes over the coming year to deal with the structural deficit,” he said.

Turin told the committee that the draft budget does not include any new initiatives — for example, implementation of the district’s technology plan and strategic planning initiatives — but that funds for initiatives could come from the local school calendar proposal for next year, which, if adopted could save the district $366,000 by introducing a longer spring break.

During Wednesday’s meeting, Turin noted that starting with the 2012-13 budget, all school districts are required to follow the Public Accounting Standards and that both the Special Purpose and Capital Funds must now be included in the overall budget.

Detailed budget information is available on the School District 68 website at www.sd68.bc.ca/News/budget2012-13.asp.