Balancing a budget is going to be a future tightrope act for School District 20.
The SD20 board is finding the $250,000 needed to balance this school year’s preliminary budget, but more alarming is the 2016-2017 school year projection of an estimated $1.35 million shortfall.
“That $1.3 (million) is going to be a real kick in the ass,” CUPE president Roger Smith told the board at Monday night’s regular meeting in Trail.
He’s hopeful secretary-treasurer Natalie Verigin’s projections are right on the money for the following year (2017-2018), where enrolment numbers are set to stabilize and add ease to budgetary lines.
The board is using $250,000 earmarked for the 2016-2017 budget to balance the current year after recalculating its funding protection supplement, which is based on the previous year’s base funding.
“We had a (special education enrolment) audit and had students that weren’t in compliance so we had to return our money last year,” explained Verigin.
“Overall, we received less money last year so this year our formula, our supplement that we used when we created our preliminary budget, was wrong because we used an estimate from the year before, which was inaccurate.”
There are rules around who gets special education support in terms of students and there is a dollar value attached, explained Darrel Ganzert, board chair.
“They (auditors) looked through our entire system and found that we were letting kids into special ed and receiving funding for them and in the strict definition of the criteria, as they saw it, we were not complying with the rules,” he explained, alluding to some discussion around special education underway.
The board is also looking ahead by using the ministry’s “funding estimator tool” to a year of cuts, if a predicted $1.35 million shortfall pegged for next year comes to fruition.
Ganzert attributes most of this projected deficit to the one-time funding of $250,000 moved to this year’s budget, $500,000 doled out for the funding protection supplement and close to $400,000 of pressure to administrative savings.
“There is a light at the end of the tunnel around declining enrolment,” he said.
“If all projections are correct, we will have steady enrolment starting the 2017/18 year, which means we won’t have to come up with $500,000 a year after that.
“Admin savings is a two-year program,” he added. “It was just out of the blue and came from nowhere, with no rational for it from the government.”