Budget cuts could mean larger classes in Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows

The Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows School District will likely be trimming teachers and increasing class sizes as it struggles to balance its 2011/12 budget.

Secretary treasurer Wayne Jefferson said class sizes at the intermediate and secondary levels could increase by .25 students on average.

“We have to tighten our belts, so we’re looking at everything,” he said.

While the changes to class sizes would vary across the district, the end result could be three full-time teaching positions cut.

“For some classes, there will be no change,” said Jefferson.

Cuts to the district’s special education budget, totalling $180,000, would see two fewer teachers across the district to work with students with learning disabilities.

The proposed cuts amount to a staffing reduction of less than two per cent, says Laurie Meston, the district’s director of instruction for early learning and elementary.

“Special education is still funded as well or better than many places. We’re staffed pretty well compared to a lot of districts,” she said. “In most cases, [the cuts] won’t be noticed.”

The cost-saving measures are just some of the many recommended by district staff to help balance next year’s budget. Currently, the district is expecting a drop in revenue of close $1 million due to falling enrollment. Meanwhile, increased costs, namely from teacher benefits, has created an expected $2.2 million shortfall.

However, salvation may come in the form of additional funding from the provincial government. Last year, the Ministry of Education provided 56 school districts with extra funding to offset declines in revenue from falling enrollment.

With the likelihood of a provincial election on the horizon, Jefferson is optimistic the provincial government will step in again.

“In my experience, elections are generally good for funding,” Jefferson said.

Among other cost-saving measures, the district also plans to bring its information technology services in-house, netting an estimated savings of $100,000.

A two per cent reduction in supplies will mean fewer paper products will be at students’ disposal.

“We’re looking at ways of going green and using less paper,” said Jefferson. “People will have to make different choices around the materials they use.”

School board trustees will vote on the 2011/12 budget on June 28.

Comment on budget

School District No. 42 has set up an online forum for parents to provide input on the budget process at www.sd42.ca/2011-–-2012-budget-process.