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Fewer dollars for Maple Ridge School District 42 in 2012/13

The Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district will again have fewer dollars to work with for the upcoming school year. However, budget pressures won’t be nearly as bad as in years past, says school board chair Mike Murray.

The local public school system is expected to receive close to $114 million in funding from the provincial government for the 2012/13 school year. That’s down from $115 million in 2011/12, due to continued falling enrollment.

District staff is predicting an enrollment decline equivalent to 258 full-time students for 2012/13. Since provincial school funding is tied to enrollment, the decline in students means fewer dollars for local schools.

While School District No. 42 will have less funding to count on for the upcoming school year, the 2012/13 budget will likely won’t include the kinds of cuts seen in previous years, says Murray.

“We are in sound financial shape,” he said, “We’ll definitely be bringing back budget that will be balanced.”

Last year, the local school district had to grapple with a $2.2 million deficit. In order to balance the budget, the district enacted more than 40 cost-saving measures, including increasing class sizes, cutting special education funding, restructuring the district’s elementary band program, and implementing a two-week spring break.

In 2009, the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Board of Education voted to close Mt. Crescent and Riverside elementary schools in an effort to save $900,000 annually.

Murray said it is too early in the budget process to say where budget cuts, if any, will be made.

“We have been advised by staff that... there will be considerably less of an adjustment than last year when we had to find $2 million,” he said.

Helping to soften the blow from the district’s declining enrollment will be $700,000 in new money as a result of the provincial government’s Bill 22.

School trustees will be voting on the district’s preliminary budget at the end of June.

However, as is the case every school year, should enrollment fall further than expected in September, the district may have to scramble to make cuts to balance their budget.

However, the tide appears to be turning in the decade-long trend of declining enrollment.

“We expect that to finally level off in the next few years,” he said. However, it could be 2020 until student enrollment reaches 2010 levels, according to staff.

School District No. 42 will holding a public feedback forum April 23 at 7 p.m. at Thomas Haney Secondary School, allowing parents to have a say in what they would like included in the budget. Specifically, the district is asking parents what areas they feel should be a priority for improved funding, which areas should be targeted for reduction if necessary, and if they have any suggestions for efficiencies or cost savings.

For more information about the public feedback forum, visit www.sd42.ca

District and CUPE agree to terms

While the provincial government and B.C. teachers remained mired in their ongoing contract dispute, School District No. 42 has come to a contract agreement with the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

The contract covers kindergarten to Grade 12 support staff in the district, and includes no pay increases for two years, per the provincial government’s net-zero mandate.

So far, public school districts across the province have reached 40 collective agreements this covering about 18,300 employees.

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