Senior Administration and the Board of Trustees of the Garden Valley School Division (GVSD) are projecting to run a deficit budget for the 2023/24 school year.
With the division's enrolment rebounding from several years of significant loss, some of the budgeted money will be earmarked for additional teachers, as well as bus drivers to support a higher enrolment.
"It's been a couple of tough years," said GVSD Superintendent Dan Ward. "Not only have we seen a decline in enrollment that is now on the rebound, but years of successive cuts to our staffing," Ward says that has created some significant challenges in terms of meeting the needs of GVSD schools.
With a 14.45 % increase in assessed land value and a freeze on the special levy, the Division's mill rate is projected to drop to 11.46 from 13.12. That will translate into a reduction in education property taxes for GVSD ratepayers.
"This budget reflects that to get back to where we once were, and to achieve genuine recovery learning, we need to invest in those areas we talked about. Additional teachers, as well as supports for our staff and for our schools," said Ward.
With the inability to raise taxes, inflationary challenges, along with increasing enrolment, Board Chair Leah Klassen says they want to ensure programming is adequate for their students. She says the board intentionally budgeted for a deficit recognizing the needs of the students, and what they were hearing from the public, parents, and teachers. She says that message was there is a need in the classroom for more support.
"We definitely heard the concern in regards to, literacy, numeracy, and mental health, which are all in our strategic plan of course. But with the last couple of years, there's been a lot more stress on the system."
"Often school divisions, when they have additional needs, look at making intentional decisions around the mill rate and around local funding," added Ward. "That's no longer an option, so the board and senior admin dig in and look at what we can do with the resources at our disposal. And in some cases, like this year, when we look at the increased needs and the reduced staffing over the last number of years, I think sometimes those conversations around looking at what we've accumulated as a surplus, and looking at an operational deficit for the coming years is a necessity around the kind of funding structure that we have."
Although still a few years out, Ward said GVSD is looking forward to the new education funding model from the provincial government. He said it's a formula the government said should work better for schools.