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BC School Trustees Association, May 22, 2015

Budget Response Update

Since the tabling of the Provincial budget on February 17, 2015, Boards of Education across BC have been working diligently to finalize their 2015/2016 school year budgets.  Their work includes reconciling the Ministry of Finance requirement that Boards reduce spending on school and district administration by a combined $29 million in addition to absorbing other cost pressures.

It is important to note that historically Boards of Education, through sound and responsible fiscal management have balanced their budgets year-over-year in spite of significant cost increases and limited funding improvements. This fiscal prudence has ensured that student achievement could not only be maintained, but improved over this same time period.  In many cases, Boards of Education have continued to meet local school and community priorities, and have ensured program stability for student learning by creating small fiscal reserves to address funding fluctuations and forecasted expense challenges. The current and past work of locally-elected Boards of Education to ensure the financial stability of their school districts, while considering the best interests of their students, must be considered a success story.

This is not to say, however, that there haven’t been significant impacts on the services and programs that school districts are able to offer. This spring, BCSTA conducted a survey of member Boards regarding the tough decisions that were going to be necessary to balance already stretched resources. Examples of cost-cutting measures that will be implemented by individual school districts before next September include:

  • Reduction or elimination of student bussing (once considered a core service)
  • Implementation of monthly student transportation fees
  • Increased class sizes and the loss of elective classes
  • Reduced support services for students including fewer Education Assistant hours
  • Reduced school supply budgets affecting the classroom directly
  • Reduced support for teacher and school-based innovation projects
  • Program, classroom and school closures
  • Expanded introduction of a two-week spring break and fewer school days
  • Reduced building and grounds maintenance, supplies and summer work
  • Deferment or cancellation of technology upgrades and implementation
  • Reduced library time and fewer library services for students
  • Loss of co-curricular music and arts programs
  • Reduced funding for students’ extracurricular programs such as sports
  • Reduced custodial services for schools
  • Reductions in school and district administration services
  • Delayed replacement of text books and library books
  • Higher costs for community groups wanting to use school facilities

By any measure, the impact of these decisions on students, administrators, support staff and teachers will be real and significant. As in all past years, Boards of Education will not run deficit budgets, but will instead make difficult choices such as those listed above.

By the end of June, each of BC’s 60 Boards of Education will have finalized and submitted a 2015/2016 budget to the Ministry of Education. Every effort will once again have been made to establish that their school district is operating as efficiently and effectively as possible. Trustees continue to do their part to ensure every public dollar is spent wisely. Boards of Education will ensure such opportunities as shared services, consolidation of support structures, and innovative technology solutions are implemented toward guarding the value of every taxpayer dollar while fully meeting the needs of students.

Boards of Education across BC are working hard with their senior staff to ensure their budget is both balanced and effective, and meets the needs of students within the context of their local communities. Decisions that are entirely appropriate for Surrey may not best meet the needs of students in Dease Lake, Cranbrook or Sooke. Trustees consider local community input and the many different situations faced by students across the province when determining their district budget allocations. Appropriate decision-making is not a ‘one size fits all’ process that can be based in Victoria or Vancouver.

 Locally-elected Boards of Education recognize and know well the unique nature and needs of their communities. If British Columbia is to fulfill our government’s vision of prosperity into the future, and we are to have the jobs and the skilled workforce to fill them, we must increase our investment in public education. Investment in quality schools and innovative programs for students is an investment in the future for us all.