Faced with the prospect of falling enrolment, the North Vancouver School District will dip into its rainy day fund to the tune of $5.5 million to balance its $171-million preliminary operating budget for next year.
The move will mean there’s less money left in the kitty for similar budget crunches in the future, but also ensure there won’t be any layoffs of teachers or support staff next year.
Included in that, the school district intends to fund 37 counselling positions next year. One new specialist teacher will also be hired to provide support for students with autism and complex needs. One new position is also being added to address cyber security risks. The budget also includes provision for a four per cent salary increase for management staff.
The school district will also continue funding programs aimed at supporting physical and mental health, including a retreat at Cheakamus Centre for all Grade 8 students.
“We’ve all had enough turmoil in our lives the last few years,” Scott Stanley, director of human resources for the school district, told trustees.
The school district has had to fill a hole in the budget primarily because of a projected decrease in enrolment of 172 students next year, from 15,832 students this year. That translates into a decrease in the provincial operating grant of almost $800,000, said Chris Atkinson, assistant superintendent. Provincial funding based on the number of students enrolled accounts for 91 per cent of the school district’s approximately $166.3 million in annual revenues.
Some other special funding, including over $7 million provided by senior governments in 2020 to support a return to school during COVID-19, and $680,000 for the same purpose this year, is also drying up.
Fees paid by international students – one of the school district’s biggest sources of revenue outside of provincial funding – are expected to bring in about $8.6 million next year, an amount similar to this year.
The number of international students expected next year – 530 – has recovered significantly since the large decrease during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, but is still not back to full pre-pandemic levels.
Collective agreements for both teachers and support staff expire at the end of June. The province will fund changes to those agreements that result from bargaining. But other amounts, like a new requirement for substitute teachers to be paid for up to five sick days – estimated to cost about $500,000 – will be paid out of operating funds.