Saanich school board eyes no-cuts budget

The Saanich school board is hoping to pass a no-cuts budget for a second straight year.

Last year’s budget of about $92 million was the first in 15 years that did not require cuts to be balanced, said board chairwoman Victoria Martin.

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“We’re slowly coming out of that,” she said. “It’s not like we’re forecasting to have a tremendous amount of extra money, but we’re certainly not looking, at this juncture, to make cuts.”

In 2016, a potential deficit in the 7,000-student Saanich district had trustees considering a budget calling for $984,000 from the province to help balance the books. Such a budget would have been considered unbalanced and could have led to the firing of trustees by the education minister.

Despite this year’s good news, there are still some cost pressures to deal with, Martin said.

“One of the recommendations from senior staff in the district is taking a look at our technology infrastructure,” she said. “We just didn’t have the money to invest in it.”

The needs encompass items such as servers rather than individual computers, Martin said.

She said that one area of uncertainty is the province’s ongoing funding-formula review. The funding formula is used to determine the bulk of the money that school districts get to operate each year.

“It was supposed to be implemented for this fall and they’ve delayed it by a year, but it will look probably quite different,” Martin said.

Both the Greater Victoria and Sooke school districts were also in the black with their budgets in 2018-19.

Greater Victoria school district secretary-treasurer Mark Walsh said budget information will be presented at a committee meeting Monday in the district offices.

“We still have a structural [or ongoing] deficit as a board, but we do anticipate that a variety of surpluses will be able to cover it,” he said.

That would make the 2019-20 budget the fourth straight with no cuts in the district of about 20,000 students.

The budget is expected to be about $250 million in 2019-20.

Sooke superintendent Scott Stinson said the expectation is there will a small budget surplus that will like likely go toward the acquisition of more portables.

“We’re needing five portables at about $300,000 apiece.”

The district has about 11,000 students and an overall budget of more than $130 million.

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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