The Delta School District will be seeing new staff and more funding for inclusive education next school year.
The nearly $178-million 2018/2019 district budget was approved with no changes at the school board meeting on April 24, which means eight new teachers and 1.75 full-time-equivalent custodial staff will be coming on board next year. It also means an additional $500,000 for the inclusive education department, to be used where staff see the most need.
For trustee Fabian Milat, it was a good news budget, particularly because it saw a high proportion of the district’s funding going towards instruction rather than administration.
“We all feel like the money should be flowing into the classrooms,” he said. “It’s great that we have low administrative costs, but it’s even more important to know that that money is going into classrooms.
“So I think that this truly is a good budget, in comparison to the years and years where we’ve had to come to the public and say this is where we’re going to be cutting … I feel like we’ve finally turned the corner.”
Although everyone present agreed this was an easier budget than previous years (trustee Bruce Reid was not present), it was not all positive.
Trustee Val Windsor echoed comments made during the public consultation by CUPE Local 1091 president Patti Price about past cuts to departments.
“While we’re not making any massive cuts, [the budget] still doesn’t restore what we’ve had to take out of our programs when cuts were made,” Windsor said during the April 24 meeting. “We’re not getting back what we lost, we’re just holding the line. It’s not a bad place to be in, but it’s certainly not where I’d like to be — I’d like to be in a place where we are growing something.”
Trustee Nick Kanakos also noted the $500,000 in funding taken from reserves for the 2017/2018 school year was not fully replaced in the 2018/2019 budget.
“Reserves are not money that the district has away in some hidden bank account. Reserves are monies that we use on a regular basis by the district to operate,” he said. “Fortunately this year, funding was increased by the provincial government, and we were able to return $100,000 into that budget.
“But starting next year, we’re going to carry forward a deficit of $400,000. And that’s something that we’ll have to consider.”
He also brought up the potential difficulties with the employers’ health tax next year, which will see the Delta School District paying around $2.1 million alongside the just under $800,000 in MSP costs.
School board chair Laura Dixon shared his concern about the health tax, and also brought up the potential impacts of bargaining, as nearly every major public sector union has its contract up for renewal in 2019.
“We have to talk about the reality of the provincial funding, the reality of the impacts of the years of funding erosion have had on our district,” she said.
“As we enter into uncertainty about how next year’s funding will look with increased costs for employers’ health tax and crossing over with MSP, the funding formula review and pieces like collective bargaining … we will continue to advocate to make sure there is that link between whatever that funding formula is going to be and what’s achieved in bargaining,” she continued.
”There has to be a link. We can’t be on two separate pathways; we have to make sure they come together. Because all of us in this room are hearing what that’s like, trying to make that balance out.”