Many readers of this blog would have been in Greater West Bench in 2015/2016, and no doubt remember the very long fight to save our little school on the hill. I am sure you have heard about SD67's ongoing budget challenges. I sat in on a District PAC budget meeting on April 29, 2020. Here is the presentation from the meeting and below are my takeaways.
We have 5170 FT students as of September 2019.
112 full-time students left the district this year.
188 student decrease is projected for next year.
International/out of province students (who pay healthy tuitions) are expected to decrease by 50% (COVID, global impact).
The reduction in student numbers (revenue) and other budget issues mean SD67 is facing a very challenging budget.
When a school district experiences an enrolment decline of at least 1% when compared to the previous year, the school district can apply for funding protection. This grant will ensure that no district experiences a decline in operating grants greater than 1.5% compared to the previous September.
The funding protection grant will need to offset the loss of special operation grants (Support Staff wage increase, Employer Health Tax, Carbon Tax). The net funding from the funding protection grant (after paying for the loss of special operating grants) is $865,589. The balance of the funding protection grant will be applied to cover costs associated with West Bench and Trout Creek elementary ($821,249). REEF was the funding that saved rural schools facing closure (Trout Creek and West Bench) in 2016. The province no longer offers REEF.
The funding protection grant for 2020/21 is $1.5 million. 2021/22, the grant is projected to be less at $1million.
At the April 29 DPAC meeting, I asked for clarification around school closures and it was confirmed that no school closures would occur in 2020/21.
Looking forward, we will have to see what September 2020 brings for enrolment at which time our Trustees will have to develop a plan for 2021/22. From what I have heard, the Board is looking at all options, including grade reconfiguration and all SD67 buildings.
My opinion remains the same as it did in 2015/2016 - our community elementary schools are critical. They are places of learning and establishing community connections. They also provide safe places for our most vulnerable and youngest residents. However, I think it is important that everyone reimagines what schools can be - can they be more than buildings that close at 3:00pm when the kids go home? I would love to hear your ideas. Please email me at email@example.com
I had a great discussion with our SD67 Trustee, Kathy Pierre. She is definitely a student first leader. Please reach out to her if you have any SD67 questions. The Board email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, please be sure to fill out the Board survey by May 7. Our Trustees want to hear from you.
Area "F" Director, Okanagan Lake West and Rural Summerland
SD 67 Budget presentations: