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Budget cleared for Greater Victoria schools

The Greater Victoria school board has passed a 2016-17 budget without major problems, but a tougher time is expected in 2017. “We’re in a better position than most school boards are,” said chairwoman Edith Loring-Kuhanga.
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“We’re in a better position than most school boards are,” said school board chairwoman Edith Loring-Kuhanga. “A lot of the school boards across the province are having to make some serious cuts. We will face that next year.”

The Greater Victoria school board has passed a 2016-17 budget without major problems, but a tougher time is expected in 2017.

“We’re in a better position than most school boards are,” said chairwoman Edith Loring-Kuhanga.

“A lot of the school boards across the province are having to make some serious cuts. We will face that next year.”

Projections indicate there could be a deficit of $7 million to $8 million, she said.

The board has approved a 2016-17 operating budget of about $182 million and an overall budget of $212 million that includes capital funds and other items. The lone trustee voting against the budget was Deborah Nohr.

Balancing the budget for the district of about 19,000 students meant dealing with a $5.9-million structural or ongoing deficit by using accumulated surpluses.

There won’t be money available to carry over for next year’s budget, Loring-Kuhanga said.

“We’ve expended those surplus dollars.”

A portion of the funds applied to the structural deficit are derived from a 400-student jump in enrolment last September. The bulk of the district’s provincial funding comes on a per-student basis.

The board also voted to send a letter outlining further budget “needs” of $8.3 million to the Ministry of Education.

“We feel that we need another 52 teachers in our schools. We need an additional 50 [Canadian Union of Public Employees] support staff.”

The board would also like to hire a number of speech-language pathologists, Loring-Kuhanga said.

One of the issues facing school boards is costs being downloaded by the province, Loring-Kuhanga said.

Things such as increases to the costs of utilities and Medical Services Plan premiums are handed to boards trying to balance the bottom line, she said.

Sooke’s budget is set to be finalized May 24, and school board chairman Bob Phillips said trustees could be facing a shortfall of about $1 million. The Saanich school board has a special budget meeting April 27 and could pass its 2016-17 budget then, while the Gulf Islands board is expected to pass its budget May 11.

B.C. school boards must pass balanced budgets every year by June 30.

jwbell@timescolonist.com