From left: Delta teachers Nicole Jarvis

From left: Delta teachers Nicole Jarvis

School budget passes with fewer cuts

Trustees approve budget cuts of $2.1 million to balance 2013-14 fiscal year

The Delta Board of Education approved budget cuts totaling $2.1 million on Tuesday evening, though it will see fewer layoffs and cuts than originally proposed.

The changes are expected to address a projected $3.46 million deficit for the 2013-14 school year.

Trustees met twice since last Tuesday’s public meeting to make amendments to the budget that will see a reduction of 13.4 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff instead of 16.1, and $359,000 in cancelled cutbacks.

The budget deficit is being blamed on a combination of a significant enrolment decline, an increase of teacher and employee benefit costs, and the carry-forward of a $1.7 million shortfall from last year.

The Delta School District is projecting an enrolment decline of 320 students for 2013-14, although that includes 65 students who did not show up for the 2012-13 school year. Enrolment declines are expected to continue until 2016 when it should level off. The province increased its per student funding formula in 2013 to $6,900 from $6,784.

However, the most contentious reason for the drop in revenue is due to the provincial government slashing $830,000 from Delta’s transportation budget. This has forced Delta to make cuts worth $380,000 in each of the next two years in Delta’s school bus service.

Trustee Nick Kanakos said the Ministry of Education tried to make an equitable distribution of bus funding to school districts throughout the province without looking at Delta’s unique blend of rural and urban busing needs.

“Unfortunately we’re faced with a situation where we do not fit with the provincial model,” he said.

Trustee Fabian Milat said he understands there’s a lot of frustration from parents who felt they weren’t properly consulted beforehand about the cuts to bus service.

“For that, I’m sorry,” he said. “I think we could have done a better job.”

Milat said there were few places to find savings in the budget and that Delta’s administration is already the second-lowest funded in the province. Administration will still see a $50,000 reduction in non-salary costs.

Trustee Donna Burke said some parents have told her that “typical students” are being discriminated against by giving priority bus service to students with special needs.

But Burke said the District doesn’t bus children with mild or moderate special needs. She said the students on special needs buses have severe, often multi-layered, health problems. Typical students, like her own children, have a life outside of school and as they get older they become more independent.

“The children in our special needs buses do not have this type of freedom,” she said. “School is all they’ve got.”

Trustee Val Windsor said the board has had to remove $21 million from the budget since the 2008-09 school year and there’s nowhere left to cut.

“For me the greatest injustice for students in Delta and throughout the province is the provincial government is not funding the cost of education in the public education system,” she said.

Windsor urged parents to stand up during the upcoming provincial election and demand education be properly funded.

Although the budget was approved for $2.1 million in cutbacks, the blow to educational assistants was softened, with two FTEs being removed instead of the proposed 3.69, saving the District $86,704.

“I’ve been that teacher that fought for students, that fought for EA support…and I know the difference it makes in a child’s life,” said Windsor.

In other changes to the budget, custodial staff and trades will be cut by $132,357 and only lose two FTEs instead of the expected three. School teaching cafeterias will see a $19,000 hit, instead of the proposed $64,000.

Learning resource funding cuts have been changed to keep $100,000 more than originally proposed.

Full details on the 2013-14 budget can be found online at web.deltasd.bc.ca.

Surrey North Delta Leader