Fewer kids, fewer teachers
Fewer students, less revenue and not as many teachers.
If the projected enrolment figures for the 2012-2013 school year hold true, that will be the equation for School District No. 73.
SD73 secretary-treasurer Kelvin Stretch has presented the Kamloops-Thompson school district’s proposed budget — and, it is balanced.
The 2012-2013 operating budget will be $124,511,890 — $2.1 million less than the budget for the current school year.
“This budget is based on projected enrolment,” said SD73 superintendent Terry Sullivan.
“Enrolment drives everything — it determines what revenue we can expect and what staff we can have in our various schools.”
According to the projections, enrolment in the Kamloops-Thompson school district will be down again next school year — continuing a trend that has seen the number of students in the district drop by nearly a quarter in the last 15 years.
In 1997, there were nearly 18,000 students attending SD73 schools.
Next year, according to projections, that number will be less than 14,000 — down 22 per cent from 1997 and more than two per cent from this year’s total.
The proposed operating budget is $124.5 million, but SD73 expects to spend $125.7 million next school year — with the difference covered by a $1-million withdrawal from the district’s operating reserve and a further $178,157 coming out of the First Nations reserve fund.
Of that $125.7 million, $90 million is expected to go to wages, $21 million toward benefits and more than $14 million to cover additional expenses.
The district expects to employ 753.3 full-time equivalent teachers next school year, down from 774.8 this year.
At its peak in 2001, that total was 920.
But, Stretch noted, there will be no layoffs.
The cuts will be made through attrition.
One of the only numbers expected to rise next school year is that attached to principals and vice-principals.
This year, SD73 employs 62 such school administrators. Projections indicate that number will rise to 64 next school year.
“We do have, actually, significant growth in two areas of our city,” Stretch said, naming Juniper Ridge and Dallas as neighbourhoods with booming student populations.
“We’re adding vice-principals in each of those schools just because of the sheer number of students they’re dealing with.”
Stretch said other vice-principals will be shuffled around the district to maintain adequate administrative coverage, depending on student numbers.
However, it’s not doom and gloom on Ninth Avenue.
The proposed budget presentation included three slides about class size — an area in which SD73 appears to be excelling among comparable school districts.
This year, SD73 has 17 classes with more than 30 students — all of them in area high schools and all of them courses considered non-academic.
Compare that to North Vancouver’s school district — which has approximately 1,000 more students than SD73 — where officials are dealing with 398 classes with more than 30 students.
The only comparable school district with fewer overcrowded classrooms is Prince George, which has seven.
As it stands today, SD73 would receive $1.7 million in funding protection — a measure put in place by the province to ensure a school district’s revenue does not fall by more than 1.5 per cent year over year, regardless of enrolment woes.
However, Stretch noted, Victoria has been generous in recent years with holdback funds — leftover money distributed to individual districts well after budgets are finalized.
In December, SD73 received $1.6 million in holdback funds.
Based on provincial projections, Stretch said the district expects to collect as much as $1.4 million next school year.
“What we’re saying is, maybe balance the budget with that reserve money, with the expectation we might get $1.4 million,” Stretch said, adding previous SD73 budgets have allowed for funding protection, but it’s never been used by the district.
If SD73 balanced its budget with the funding protection instead of reserve funds, and enrolment was higher than projected in September, no additional per-student funding would be received.
“We would get the funding, but we would lose that amount in funding protection,” Stretch said.
But, if district officials balance the budget with reserve funds — still with the hope of $1.4 million from Victoria later this year to cover most of it — they will receive additional per-student funds if enrolment is higher than anticipated.
Stretch conceded the formula is complicated.
“Certainly, we’re never excited about funding protection because it’s a difficult thing to budget for,” he said.
“Last year, we were slated to receive $1.5 million [in funding protection] and we received nothing because of the money [$1.5 million in holdback funds] we got in December.”
The deadline for written submissions to the committee of the whole is April 18, to be followed by the budget presentation at the April 30 SD73 regular board meeting.
After 15 years of consistently declining enrolment, the Kamloops-Thompson school district expects student numbers — and everything else — to soon plateau.
Since 1997, the number of students in School District No. 73 has dropped by more than 20 per cent.
“There will be a decline over the next few years of about 200 or 300 students per year,” SD73 secretary-treasurer Kelvin Stretch told KTW. “But, we expect to level off at about 12,000 or 13,000 students.”
This year, there are a little more than 14,000 students in SD73 schools. That number is expected to decrease by about 340 when the school year begins in September.
Stretch said the continuing decline in enrolment could change if something — “maybe a mine,” he said — happened to alter the demographics of Kamloops.
Because of the drastic reconfiguration in 2010, which left five schools shuttered, the district appears to be in good shape heading into the future, assuming projections are correct.
“Part of the reason we did that was to reduce some of the excess capacity in the district,” Stretch said.
“It allows the district to reconfigure and become more efficient. The district eventually winds up in a better position.”