Skip to content

West Van school trustees spend surplus to balance budget

Rising costs, including 5 days' sick leave for teachers on call, plus lagging numbers of international students, are contributing to the budget crunch.
kids raising hands
The West Vancouver School District is dipping into its rainy day to balance the budget for next year.

The West Vancouver School District has passed its preliminary operating budget for next year, including $79.2 million in projected operating costs. But trustees have had to use most of the district’s rainy-day fund to do that – balancing the budget with $2.6 million in surplus.  

That’s a worrying trend, spurred by increases in everything from additional sick-leave costs to rising gas prices that could leave the school district with less than $180,000 in surplus funds to draw on, said secretary-treasurer Julia Leiterman.

In West Vancouver, where operating costs are expected to come in at just over $79 million next year, but revenue is projected at only $77 million, there are a few reasons for the budget crunch.

The number of fee-paying international students has still not fully recovered from the low numbers during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Leiterman. Some of that is due to continued lockdowns in Asia, a traditional source of international students in West Vancouver. The number of families willing to host students has also dwindled. Fees from international students used to make up about 13 per cent of the school district’s budget, said Leiterman. That number is now sitting at about 10 per cent.

Other cost pressures include rising utility costs and capital costs of computers and network upgrades that aren’t specifically funded by the province, said Leiterman.

Last year, the school district spent $1.4 million upgrading its network and $370,000 on new laptops for teachers, she said.

School districts are also now required to provide sick leave pay for casual employees, including substitute teachers, which could cost the district up to $400,000 in a worst-case scenario, said Leiterman.

Extra funding provided to school districts during the two years of the COVID-19 pandemic to cover costs like extra janitorial staff has also now dried up.

On the good news front, however, the school district has received capital funding to install ventilation systems in the remaining two schools that were without – Eagle Harbour and Caulfeild elementaries. That work will be completed this summer, said Leiterman.