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Layoffs avoided as North Van school district approves $190M operating budget

Enrolment is projected to increase next year, boosted by a jump in the number of ELL students
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The North Vancouver school district has approved a budget for the next school year that avoids layoffs of teachers and support staff.

The North Vancouver School District has passed a budget for the next school year that avoids layoffs for teachers and support staff.

The board of education passed the preliminary budget, including a $189.7 operating budget, on May 25.

Superintendent Pius Ryan told trustees the budget for the 2023/2024 school year is still focused on getting “back to normal” following previous years of pandemic-influenced changes.

The good news is “there will be no general staff layoffs for teachers or support staff,” said Scott Stanley, director of human resources for the school district. “We’re very pleased to be in this position.”

More than 90 per cent of the school district’s budget comes from the provincial government and is tied to enrolment.

The school district is projecting a small increase in enrolment next year of about 80 students – to 16,105 total.

“Enrolment is steady. That means funding and finances are steady,” said assistant superintendent Arlene Martin.

An increase in English Language Learner students is part of what’s driving the increase. Next year the school district predicts about 1,393 students – or nine per cent of all students – will be ELL students, said Martin. Many of those students are coming from Ukraine and Iran, she said.

The vast majority of the school district’s budget is spent on staffing. Under the preliminary budget, the number of teachers will remain basically unchanged next year, at 984. The school district is, however, budgeting for an increase of 15 educational assistants, bringing that total to 390 EAs. The number of other support staff, including counsellors, is expected to be unchanged.

An increase in teachers’ and CUPE members’ wages, of 6.75 per cent – covered by the province – is included in the budget. A five per cent increase for administrators, paid for by the school district, is also included.

In total, the school district expects to spend more than $171 million on salaries and benefits next year.

The school district is anticipating enrolment of 580 international students next year, down from the 690 who enrolled this year and the over 700 annually who enrolled pre-pandemic. Those 580 students would bring in tuition revenue of $9.4 million.

Among special programs offered by the school district, academies are expected to bring in just under $982,000 – and have a similar amount in expenses.

The Cheakamus Centre in Squamish is expected to bring in $2.358 million in revenues but cost $2.427 million to run.

While enrolment is relatively steady, Chris Atkinson, assistant superintendent, acknowledged that is not being seen uniformly across the school district, with “an area of densification” concentrated in the city centre while enrolment in some other areas has declined.

That could mean a loss of some “flexible” learning spaces in some elementary schools if they are needed for classrooms, he warned.

It could also mean more portables. Those cost $350,000 and have not been included in the preliminary budget.

Among capital projects, the school district anticipates completion of remedial work on the Cheakamus Centre at a cost of $535,000 and computer and technology upgrades at a cost of $929,000.

Like last year, the school district balanced its budget by dipping into its rainy day “surplus” fund to the tune of about $2 million.

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