School district predicts $3 million shortfall

Langley’s public school system will be short by $3 million for the 2014/15 school year, trustees were told Tuesday evening.

The Langley School District finance department is in the process of finalizing its budget and has forecast the shortfall.

“Hopefully we can find some savings in the next few weeks,” secretary-treasurer David Green said.

The budget must be finalized for the May school board meeting.

He said the financial difficulties will continue into the future and the district will have to look at program consolidations, changes or reductions, staffing reductions, supplies reductions, or school closures.

One of the cost pressures is staffing costs which are expected to rise.

The district will have to find another CUPE wage increase and the collective agreement expires at the end of this school year so another negotiated increase should be expected.

The teachers of B.C. are in job action right now as they take on the provincial government over stalled contract negotiations.

The district is also expecting a surplus of more than $2 million.

“I do suspect we’re going to have to use the surplus to balance the budget in 2015,” Green said.

He cautioned about relying on surpluses to balance subsequent budgets. Depending on which department the surplus is from, the B.C. government dictates how it can be spent.

Green noted that the auditor general recommended the district set aside emergency funds for the future.

Trustee Alison McVeigh noted that the surpluses are spoken for and the province restricts where some of that money can be spent.

“We can be very much lulled into this false sense of security,” she said about the expected surplus.

She added that the district will continue to face cost pressures and although the district enrolment is growing, it’s confined to one neighbourhood and others are seeing declines.

Trustee Rod Ross noted that the district can’t expect any financial help from Victoria and pointed to the fast growing Willoughby.

“We can’t even get a school from them right now,” he said.

Current student enrolment of more than 18,000 puts Langley at the level it had around 2003/04 with numbers expected to rise over the next few years.

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