Judicious use of a good portion of the current budget surplus will protect some favourite programs in School District 10 for the next year, say trustees.
“We have maintained small class sizes and the music program, which is what parents really wanted, besides not taking away anything from student learning in the district,” said board chair Christine Dixon.
The Arrow Lakes School District board passed its annual budget in late April, calling for $11.17 million in spending for children’s education in 2021-22.
“The board and district are happy in this 2021-2022 budget to be able to maintain the high-quality teaching and learning that our parents and students depend on,” Superintendent Terry Taylor told the Valley Voice. “Our budget allows us to continue strong outdoor learning and environmental education programs, success for Indigenous learners, support for students with diverse learning needs, mental health supports and universal food program.”
Trustees said they heard from citizens in a series of public consultations, and there was “overwhelming support” for protection of fine arts and applied skills learning for all students.
“We heard about the music program in every consultation we did,” said Trustee Steve Gascon. “So those extra curriculars and extra things were a big part of it. I think using the surplus and going with the budget we did really communicates that we are committed to the learning of the kids – and not just the core reading, writing and arithmetic – but the holistic educational journey.”
Trustees voted to use $490,000 of their over $850,000 budget surplus to support those programs and other electives, and to cover cost increases like salaries, which are going up by 2% this year.
“What this budget proposes is that there are no cuts to services to children,” said Taylor. “By using surplus funds to keep the focus on deep learning for our kids and building the professional capacity of our staff, the board has made a wise investment in what matters most: our children and youth.
The operating surplus has been growing for several years, but saw a real boom in the last 12 months as COVID disrupted things like school transportation, maintenance programs and school trips, lowering the district’s operating expenses.
“Using the amount of surplus the board decided on is good strategy, and with the uncertain conditions we are all facing, and the consultative process [told us] everything was working well at the district and a lot of the participants commented they wanted status quo, so that was brought into play for the final recommendation,” said Assistant Secretary-Treasurer Shelly Woolf.
Woolf said the way the board has decided to spend its surplus is in accordance with Ministry of Education financial policy. She also noted the draft budget was forwarded to the ministry, and passed a preliminary review by ministry staff.
The Province sets the school tax rates by determining the total amount of revenue to be raised by school taxes in each school district. Residential taxation rates are calculated based on the total number of residences in the district and the total assessed value of the residences.
John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice