The Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows School District received welcome news from the provincial government Wednesday morning, as the Ministry of Education announced it would be releasing an additional $15 per student in school funding for the 2010/11 school year.
The province is distributing more than $8 million to districts across B.C., with School District No. 42 set to receive $210,218.
Secretary treasurer Wayne Jefferson said the announcement was positive for the district at a time when staff and trustees are scrambling to find savings in order to balance next year’s budget.
“This takes some of the pressure off,” said Jefferson.
The additional funding is intended, in part, to help school districts offset the increased cost of insuring school facilities.
Schools across the province are self-insured by the Ministry of Education through a provincial school protection plan. Traditionally the premiums have been paid for by the province.
However, earlier this month, the Ministry of Education informed school districts they would be on the hook for $3 million in property loss charges. School District No. 42’s share was to be $63,900, but Wednesday’s announcement means that cost will be covered by the province, and will leave the district with an extra $146,000 in funding.
“There was a lot of opposition [to the property loss charges],” said Jefferson. “But this was a quick response by the Ministry.”
The extra funds mean the district will likely finish the 2010/11 school year with a larger than expected surplus, said Jefferson.
The district is currently grappling with a $2.2 million shortfall for the 2011/12 school year, though.
Trustees are considering a wide array of cuts to balance next year’s budget, which they will vote on at the end of June.
Jefferson said the extra funding could help lessen the extent of those cuts.
“But we won’t know until the end of the year,” he said.
School board trustees were presented with a list of cuts recommended by staff to help eliminate the $2.2 million deficit last week.
Along with the elimination of the elementary school band teacher position, which parents and students rallied to save, staff suggested increasing class sizes at the secondary and intermediate levels, cuts to special education and crossing guards, a two per cent reduction in services and supplies, a reduction in clerical hours, and canceling the district’s IT contract.
In all, staff presented more than 40 cost-saving measures to help balance the budget
The district is expecting a $750,000 drop in revenue next year due largely to a reduction in provincial funding, as well as an $1.5 million increase in costs from pensions, MSP premiums, and holiday pay.
Jefferson said he remains hopeful the province will once again provide funding protection for school districts experiencing falling enrollment, as was done last year.