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Burnaby school district addresses $1M shortfall

In the end, the Burnaby school district’s budget shortfall was about half what it originally expected, but it still required cutting 2.5 primary teachers to balance the budget.

The preliminary numbers saw Burnaby looking at a $5-million shortfall initially for the 2012-2013 school year. That figure was whittled down thanks to a $3.3-million surplus expected by the end of the current school year, which included a $900,000 surplus carried forward from 2010-2011 and an additional $1.2-million in net revenue from its international education program.

As a result, back in March, the district was preparing to deal with a shortfall of $1.5 million to $2 million for next year.

The district’s assistant secretary-treasurer Roy Uyeno said the education ministry provided an additional enrolment holdback (money held back at the start of the year until enrolment numbers are more concrete, in February) of about $360,000.

The district also got a larger share than expected of the savings from teachers’ job action, the result of when they walked off the job for three days in March.

Uyeno said originally, the ministry indicated it would claw back $1.7 million of those Burnaby savings, but in the end only took back $1.4 million, leaving the district with an additional $300,000 and an overall shortfall of just under $1 million.

Of that shortfall, $213,000 will be saved by cutting the number of primary teachers by 2.5 full-time equivalent positions (FTE). The cut is to a portion of the extra teacher staffing added  during the implementation of full-day kindergarten, to make sure individual class size requirements were met and the district class size average for primary grades did not increase.

Also cut is $334,000 budgeted to cover inflation in the cost of services and supplies. That will realistically mean a cut to that part of the budget because the purchasing power has been diminished by the estimated two per cent in inflation, he said.

Services and supplies will take another hit of $120,000, the result of getting a smaller amount of tax rebates under the GST/PST system, which the province will be reverting to, than under the present HST system.

While individual schools are typically allowed to carry forward any surplus funds they end up with, the district will be taking back 15 per cent of that, about $200,000.

The district hopes to achieve $100,000 in energy savings and to find $10,000 in efficiencies by streamlining and reorganizing its purchasing services department, including the district print shop, which will save 0.5 FTE.

On the other side of the ledger, the district will be adding one FTE position to create a balanced “wellness and absence management” program.

Like most districts, Uyeno said, Burnaby has a high absenteeism rate among its employees. The goal is to improve the health and wellness of staff and reduce the overall cost of absences. In the first year, the district expects the program cost will be $50,000 after savings from reduced absenteeism. It’s anticipated in subsequent years the savings will cover the full cost of the program and eventually be a net contributor to the district financially.

The Burnaby school board approved the preliminary operating budget April 24.

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