Surrey school board balances next year’s budget with $8.7M surplus

SURREY — The Surrey Board of Education says it could hire 40 to 45 new teachers if it didn’t have to pay to keep up portables.

Nearly 300 portables cost the district $4 million a year, according to a recent report.

That’s just one of the realities in a district that is seeing an increase in enrolment with no sign of slowing down.

Two hundred new students are expected this fall, bringing enrolment projections close to 70,000 full-time students.

With many schools bursting at the seams, it’s difficult to balance the budget and provide specialized spaces and programming, such as for students with special needs, according to the board. But thanks to foresight earlier in the school year, the district is looking at a surplus to the tune of $8.7 million at the end of June. That will mean it won’t be looking at cuts to such programs this year.

The board had faced an $8-million shortfall for the 2013-2014 school year, a hole that trustees filled by cutting support staff hours and budgets for department supplies.

But this year, the board says it recognized potential budget impacts of the teachers’ strike and a delay in provincial funding details. The resulting savings will help balance next year’s operating budget of $618 million.

Trustee Terry Allen said the budget did not come without its challenges. He noted the board had to find savings to pay for contractual obligations and infrastructure costs.

“We also continue to have to find funding for BC Hydro increases and increased benefit costs, and of course, one-time surplus funds cannot be relied upon to support ongoing programs,” said Allen.

The district also plans to add eight new staff positions this year.

A long-range plan considered at a public meeting last week included more than 40 recommendations to map out the district’s future.

“Our board heard loud and clear our parents value to quality and variety of our program of choice, and they want more,” said Surrey Board of Education chair Shawn Wilson.

A new Early French Immersion program is to be launched at Cougar Creek Elementary this September. As well, trustees hope to establish a new Punjabi language program at T.E. Scott Elementary this fall.

Visit Surreyschools.ca.

With files from Vancouver Sun

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