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School board passes balanced, $172M budget

School Board chair Tim Bennett.

BY BILL PHILLIPS

bill@pgdailynews.ca

School District 57 board of education trustees have adopted another balanced budget.

On Tuesday the board passed a balanced, 172.7 million budget Tuesday, a slight increase from last year’s $172.2 million budget.

“It is a good news budget,” said vice-chair Sharel Warrington. “Prince George is a growing district. We have, for years, been fighting declining enrolments and budget cuts and issues that we didn’t want to have to deal with (such as) closing schools. We are now on an upturn and we are now having the opportunity to provide additional resources to our students.”

Those additional resources include:

  • District-led Mental Health Literacy rollout to assist with prevention, early recognition, intervention and reduction of stigma associated with mental illness;
  • Support for two additional teaching Vice Principals to provide school-based leadership and support of student learning in rural communities;
  • Support for an Education Assistant mentorship program in the district to ensure staff are appropriately trained and students are receiving the supports they need;
  • An increase of Aboriginal Education Workers for each Elementary and Secondary school;
  • An increase of two Aboriginal Education Social Workers;
  • Addition of two Aboriginal Vice Principals, one to support Aboriginal Language and Culture and one to support academic achievement;
  • Additional support to the Facilities Services Purchasing department.

Enrolment increased last year and is projected to increase again, said Warrington, which, of course, increases the block funding payments from the province. The projected enrolment for the next school year is 13,373, which is an increase of about 172 students.

The overall $172 million budget is set up in three different funds – operating, special purpose, and capital.

The operating fund is the largest fund at $144 million (84 per cent) and salaries and benefits represent 82 per cent of that budget.

She said a $5.9 million surplus has been placed in the budget to support learning initiatives.

“We’re very, very proud of being able to do that,” she said. “That is a very effective use of  surplus and it demonstrates that our district is in a healthy financial position.”

Those initiatives are:

  • A multi-year commitment to support the implementation of a Student Services-led mental health project that focusses on Responses to Intervention and Positive Behaviour Support Interventions in school and classroom environments, a project aimed specifically at capacity building in schools to focus on strategies for mental health literacy and learning;
  • A district-wide WiFi refresh project which will improve the technology infrastructure across the district;
  • Continued support for the multi-year acquisition of modular units to replace the aging modular infrastructure in the district;
  • Support for ongoing capital projects identified in schools to enhance the learning environment for students;
  • Continued support of projects to conserve energy by monitoring and reducing energy consumption.

The special purpose fund is set at $16.5 million.

The capital fund shows a net transfer from operating of $3.5 million, which covers capital assets for the schools, a $500,000 commitment to the Kelly Road School replacement and $400,000 is to replace portables.

“The Board of Education is happy to consider the budget this year,” said Board Chair Tim Bennett. “While the budget provides a sustainable level of service to students, there were funds available to provide additional sustainable resources in support of student learning, with an emphasis on mental health literacy. Through use of surplus, the Board supported the inclusion of a pilot project aimed specifically at capacity building in schools – providing the appropriate tools to school staff to deal with the daily challenges they face – with a focus on strategies for mental health literacy and learning. Additionally, the Board has supported the inclusion in the 2019-2020 budget of a use of surplus for a WiFi refresh project which will see improvements in technology infrastructure across the district.”

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