The Board of Education’s role in the budget process is to engage with the community, listen to staff, and make decisions on how to most effectively manage our resources for the betterment of our children and life-long learning. We are hosting three public events and one virtual Twitter chat, in order to hear the public’s suggestions.
The Board of Education and District Leadership Team continues its advocacy through meetings with the Deputy Minister and local MLA’s to express concerns about the lack of provincial funding. Advocacy also occurs through provincial organizations such as the BC School Trustees Association (BCSTA). Community members are encouraged to speak to their local MLA about ways to lobby government to increase education funding in our District.
The Board of Education has always placed students at the forefront of decision making when it comes to budgets. The Board has made decisions to maximize the funds available for Instruction in the classroom. In fact, the Board spends more of its budget on Instruction and less on Administration, as well as Operations and Maintenance than the provincial average. The Board of Education is engaging with the public and will make decisions in consideration of that input. As a near status quo budget, there is little change from current educational services anticipated.
The District already has a number of revenue generating ventures, such as a strong International Education program, Learning Innovation Network (LINC), Continuing Education, rental of facilities and investment income. Management is exploring opportunities to enhance revenues in these areas.
To meet the requirement for additional Administrative savings in future years, many initiatives will be explored such as rental enhancement, energy efficiencies, WorkSafeBC Program Enhancement, Enhancing Investment Returns, Educational Program Efficiencies, and Technology initiatives.
Regulatory rate increases will be offset through increasing usage efficiencies in our schools combined with negotiated supply contracts to bring pricing stabilization for this next year.
The school district is legally required by the School Act to submit a balanced budget. The district has reduced costs in a number of areas such as supplies, salaries and professional development. School district staff members have made funding concerns known to Ministry of Education and continue to work with them. Trustees are continually lobbying government directly and through all available forums such as the BC School Trustees Association (BCSTA). The Board of Education and District Leadership Team have plans to meet with the Deputy Minister and local MLA’s to express concerns about the lack of provincial funding. Community members are encouraged to speak to your local MLA about ways to lobby government to increase education funding in our District.
The holdback is a portion of the operating grant that is not allocated and is held by the Ministry of Education for emergent issues or to address unanticipated enrolment variations that occur during the school year. If these funds are not required, they are disbursed to school districts on a per student basis. We do not budget for these funds in the current school year, but instead retain for the next budget year. In 2014-2015 the amount of the holdback was $2.3 million. $775,000 was utilized for additional debt repayment and the balance incorporated into the 2015- 2016 budget.
The Coquitlam School District is under-funded by the provincial government in comparison to both other Metro Vancouver school districts as well as in comparison to rates of inflation indexed through the Consumer Price Index. Coquitlam is ranked last (60th out of 60 school districts) or the lowest funded district per student in the province.
Provincial funding for education has not kept up with inflation. If the total grants had kept up with inflation since 2009-2010, Coquitlam would have received $7,492 per student in 2014-2015 or $447 more than it current receives. The difference of $447 per student equates to $13.8 million funding shortfall.
Even with the modest increase, Coquitlam ranks 60th out of 60 school districts (or the lowest in funding).
An aspect of the provincial funding differential is attributable to extra funding grants to school districts with declining enrolment. This redistributes funds from schools with stable or increasing enrolment. A second aspect of funding differential relates to unique geographical situations and funding protocols that direct more grants into these school districts and away from Coquitlam.
Larger school districts tend to receive less funding per student. Out of the 60 school districts, 20 school districts are below the provincial average for funding, 13 of these are in the top 20 by enrolment size.
While the basic student grant is the same for all school districts, 40 school districts receive additional funds due to declining enrolment. Also contributing to grant funds for school districts is funding for geographical factors which includes student location factors, climate, rural and small community funding.
Currently, our deficit is at $10.261 million. The Ministry requires the Board of Education to pay $2.5 million by the end of the 2014-2015 school year. That means at the end of the 2015-2016 school year the School District debt will be approximately $7 million.
The status quo budget means staffing levels will be similar to 2014-2015 staffing levels. While staffing levels are expected to remain relatively the same, some adjustments are required to better align our resources with student needs.
We have announced a near status quo budget for 2015-2016. The vast majority of staffing is being retained with some repositioning of staff to better serve schools. The primary change relates to the repositioning of cafeterias to a third party provider and redeploying existing staff into positions that support schools. This also involves an increase educational assistants and clerical staff which are all school based employees.
In preparing the 2014-2015 budget we undertook significant reductions in our budget – much of it was related to staffing reductions. This outcome resulted in a balanced and stable budget. We are managing to this budget with further realized efficiency opportunities providing the resources for a stable outlook in the 2015-2016 budget.
No - School district funds in the capital budget must be used for capital projects and associated costs. Any revenues raised through land sales cannot go into general operations and must be dedicated to new and/or improved infrastructure, including building new schools, refurbishing or adding to existing schools, or providing the capital money needed to improve infrastructure.
Burke Mountain continues to be a top priority but a status quo operating budget will not impact the development of a new school in the Burke Mountain community. The Operating Budget only manages Learning, Teaching, Programs and Administration funds. It will not impact or assist with creating more schools on Burke Mountain as school building are funded by the Capital Budget.
Our level of funding does not allow the School District to bring back buses. School District No.43 (Coquitlam) is working with Coast Mountain Bus Company, TransLink's largest operating company, to get more services in underserved areas.
The funding formula containing various components was established many years ago and remains largely true to the original concepts.
The increase in per student funding is directly related to the costs associated with labour settlements. There are no funds to address inflationary or other cost components of a school district associated with the increased grant funding.
The scope of specific technology initiatives has yet to be fully developed. There will be some savings around standardization on a printer device strategy, and certainly efficiencies gleamed from the implementation of the new accounting systems for schools. Other initiatives are currently being identified.