Jobs on $3.7M district chopping block

Cowichan Valley School District 79 projects a shortfall of just under $3.7 million for its 2016-17 annual budget

Cowichan Valley School District 79 projects a shortfall of just under $3.7 million for its 2016-17 annual budget, which will spell some hard decisions ahead.

SD79 secretary-treasurer Jason Sandquist presented the numbers at a sparsely attended public meeting Thursday in the district’s annex building on Beverley Street, listing the disqualification for provincial funding protection and incomplete provincial funding of negotiated labour settlements for district teachers as two major factors leading to the shortfall.

“There are two ways to address a shortfall. You either increase your revenues…or you reduce expenditures,” Sandquist said, noting the bulk of SD79’s funding comes from the province so there’s little opportunity to raise revenues.

Sandquist began the presentation by showing the declining school-aged population in B.C., a figure that’s been going down since 1971. Around 2011 that levelled off, just as the population of those over 65 began steadily climbing. He noted that healthcare funding has therefore become first priority in B.C.

SD79 took on 150 new students this year and expects to be up 25 students in the coming school year.

Funding protection, handed out by the province to eligible districts to protect them from any funding decline larger than 1.5 per cent, has supported SD79 in the past when it experienced declines in student growth. However, stabilization and growth of enrolment this year led to SD79 not qualifying for funding protection for its upcoming budget. This is a big hit to balancing the budget.

Additionally, $1,671,848 of surplus was used to balance the 2015-16 budget, deferring making any reductions until this school year. Wages (including mandated pay raises), supplies, inflation and installation of the Next Generation Network to upgrade the school’s technology system are also considerable cost pressures.

“We’ve built in all the revenues we think we’re going to have for the year already,” Sandquist said. “So it really will be a reduction in expenditures. Where those will come from, I can’t speculate yet. We haven’t put anything forward to the board as far as recommendations from staff. And the board also hasn’t communicated or met with all the partners and they still have to hear the input of the public, so there are a lot of considerations.”

“But it’s pretty clear… 90 per cent of our budget is wages and salaries,” he said, stating that some people will be laid off. “Obviously when you’re making a reduction of this scale, unfortunately it affects some employment.”

Although such discussions are still to be had and Sandquist cautioned people not to panic, layoffs are certainly likely.

“With a number of that scope I don’t know how there could not be [layoffs] and balance the budget,” Sandquist said, adding that there is a legislative requirement that the budget be balanced. “It will be balanced. It’ll just mean obviously we — possibly — won’t have all the same services that we have this year.”

SD79 board chair Candace Spilsbury urged attendees to remain optimistic.

“While we don’t have much hope or smiles going into this, I’m sure we’ll find a way to make it work like this district always has in the past,” she said.

Sandquist echoed this, saying changes will need to be made.

“We haven’t had a figure like this in a few years,” he said. “It will be a difficult task and it will not mean the status quo moving forward.”

The board of education is seeking input from the public on their priorities regarding the budget and will use the community’s perspective to help make decisions.

The survey is available until April 10 on the school district’s website at There are also paper copies available at your local school office.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cowichan Community Centre Elder College celebrates 20th anniversary

Volunteer instructors are the key to success.

Flashback: Teddy bears, dinosaurs, cougars, oh my!

Remember these stories from Cowichan Lake?

Drivesmart column: Clear your frosty windows BEFORE driving

85 per cent of the information we require to drive safely comes to us through our eyes.

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 20 to 26

Rabbit Day, Hobbit Day and One-Hit Wonder Day are all coming up this week

B.C. or Ontario? Residential school survivors fight move of court battle

It’s now up to Ontario’s Court of Appeal to sort out the venue question

B.C. transportation minister will not seek re-election

Claire Trevena has held the position since 2017

Body discovered floating in water near Lasqueti Island

JRCC reports personnel aboard fishing vessel made the find

Young B.C. cancer survivor rides 105-km with Terry Fox’s brother

Jacob Bredenhof and Darrell Fox’s cycling trek raises almost $90,000 for cancer research

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

B.C. migrant, undocumented workers rally for permanent residency program

Rally is part of the Amnesty for Undocumented Workers Campaign led by the Migrant Workers Centre

Preparations underway for pandemic election in Saskatchewan and maybe B.C.

Administrators in B.C. and around the country are also looking to expand voting by mail during the pandemic

Nearly 20 per cent of COVID-19 infections among health-care workers by late July

WHO acknowledged the possibility that COVID-19 might be spread in the air under certain conditions

Ferry riders say lower fares are what’s most needed to improve service

Provincial government announces findings of public engagement process

Most Read