School District 54 is facing challenges with a steep decline in student enrollment but Secretary Treasurer Steve Richards said the district has dodged a bullet with some one time funding.
The district’s preliminary budget was revealed at a meeting last Thursday.
For this budget year, referring to the school year beginning next September, the district has seen a sharp decline in enrollment of 92 full-time-equivelants (FTEs).
That’s the sharpest single drop in enrollment for the district. Yet that doesn’t actually pose a significant problem. At least not this year.
Because of that enrollment drop, the district has received $666,411 in what is called funding protection from the Ministry of Education. That’s provided when enrollment drops over four per cent.
“For the first time ever we’re in the funding protection,” said Richards as he outlined the budget for trustees in Smithers.
If that funding protection hadn’t been available, the enrollment decline would have translated to about half a million dollars lost.
The district is also receiving 50 per cent of formula transition funding, which the government will have phased out completely by 2013. That means for the budget year approaching the district will get $181,063.
All in all the district is looking at gross expenditures of $23,913,862.
Over last year their revenue is down $55,000.
There is little change in the cost of employment. While the cost of teachers’ salaries is down for this budget year, benefits are up so the net outcome is little change over last year.
Overall the district has seen a drop of approximately five instruction FTEs.
“We’re a student driven organization, so if enrollment is going down by 92 then the people go down because that’s what drives our expenditures.”
Interestingly there are still more employees dedicated to instruction now than there were nine years ago, despite an overall drop in that time frame of 526 FTE students.
Salaries account for 89 per cent of the district’s budget.
Richards explained that that leaves $2.66 million that the district has to pay on everything else that isn’t salary.
“It is important for everyone to recognize that out of that $2.66 million we have to pay for everything,” he said. “So $2.6 million doesn’t go very far. It’s very difficult for a district this size to manage with that amount of money.”
The district is also working on a basis of no longer using any surplus.
“This is not a sustainable picture, the use of accumulated surplus funds,” he pointed out.
Despite all the ups and downs, the school district is essentially continuing on as usual for this budget but there are challenges ahead.
“We’re going to have to be increasingly vigilant with all of these things … There’s a lot of costs that we simply can’t do anything about,” said Richards. “It’s going to be quite a challenge in 2013 unless funding improves.”
The budget will go for final revisions before the operations committee on June 8 and the Board of Education will give final readings to the document on June 21st.
For the first time in several years Houston Secondary School is not the leader in school enrollment decline.
Steve Richards noted at the budget meeting that Smithers Secondary School is actually seeing the most decline for the upcoming budget year.
“Historically in the last four or five years the rate of decline in Houston has been precipitous. The high school in particular,” he said. “But over the last 12 months we’ve seen socio-economic situation change a bit in Houston and we’re quite pleased to see that elementary enrollment has stablized, if not improved marginally.”
He also noted Telkwa Elementary was declining in enrollment as well but not so dramatically and he said administration believes enrollment will soon turn around for the school.
Exact numbers for enrollment declines at these schools were not immediately known.