Abbotsford School District Budget $170 Million
At our last school board meeting on Feb 5 Trustee John Sutherland said that the district education budget is bigger by far than the city budget. This comparison caught my attention, so I went out to research both budgets.
First, I spoke with Linda Peters, the Director of Finance at Abbotsford School District, to learn that the education budget for this year will be set at $170 Million, 85-90% of which will go to staff salaries. No one worries about the costs of school buildings or properties because those budgets do not represent market values. For example, ASIA Fine Arts School was donated to the district for a dollar. So the budget shows the value of this $10 Million school as one dollar. Linda says there are two major parts to the school district budget: the Operating Section includes the costs for operating all K-12 schools and the school board office. The Special Purpose Section includes non-standard expenses, like community links and StrongStart BC. Abbotsford has the StrongStart program running in the following eleven schools.
|1. Alexander Elementary||(604) 859-3167||225 Lobban Rd|
|2. Clearbrook Elementary||(604) 859-5348||3614 Clearbrook Rd|
|3. Terry Fox Elementary||(604) 859-8403||3071 Babich St|
|4. Godson Elementary||(604) 853-8374||33130 Bevan Ave|
|5. John Maclure Community School||(604) 853-6450||2990 Oriole Cres|
|6. Dormick Park Elementary||(604) 859-3712||32161 Dormick Ave|
|7. Aboriginal Education Centre||(604) 859 1224||3277 Gladwin Rd|
|8. Harry Sayers Elementary||(604) 852-9665||31321 Blueridge Dr|
|9. Ten Broeck Elementary||(604) 850-6657||2580 Stanley St|
|10. Margaret Stenersen Elementary||(604) 859-3151||3060 Old Clayburn Rd|
|11. Dr. Thomas A Swift Elementary||(604) 853-7730||34800 Mierau St|
BC’s Early Learning Programs
StrongStart BC early learning programs provide school-based early learning services for adults and their young children, aged birth to five, at no cost to families. Qualified early childhood educators lead learning activities, including stories, music and art to help children get ready for success in kindergarten.
Abbotsford City Budget
Next I spoke with Randy Miller, Budget and Payroll Manager for our city. Randy says our total municipal budget is $250 Million broken up into a $80 Million Capital section and a $170 Million Operating section. The Capital budget includes building roads, bridges, developing our water distribution system and our sewer system, and building fire halls, and other buildings. All this is called linear infra structure.
The operating budget includes 50% wages for city staff, like tradesmen and professional staff, Waterworks staff, Bylaw Enforcement staff, Fire Fighters and Police Officers. Randy compared the school district budget to our city budget this way. The education budget will probably be a single line of business. Our budget covers a range of a hundred different businesses.
I can already hear objections about the comparison of the education budget to our city budget. Teachers will point out the complexity of the Canadian education system. There will be an argument that an Orientation and Mobility Teacher of deaf and blind students or a Teacher of English Language Learners is completely different and specialized from an Elementary or Secondary Teacher or even a Principal. And all the complexity in Abbotsford’s 46 schools will be reflected in the school district budget. But it wasn’t me who made the comparison, it was the school trustees.
Stagflation and Inertia in British Columbia
This research points out two basic facts. Both the school budget and our city budget are large – a couple hundred million dollars each. And all budgets will be lean this year because by virtually any measure the state of the Canadian economy is anemic.
We all want to avoid huge service cuts, but huge wage increases of 15% for any workers seem unlikely. There are no new taxes. No increase in personal taxes, and no overtaxing of businesses. The oil glut has decreased the taxes we will have to spend. The employment rate is low. The inflation rate is near zero – some are calling this stag-flation. Businesses are sitting on a half trillion dollars of DEAD MONEY. The United States is facing a budget bomb on Friday, Mar 1, which could also blow up Canada.
Despite all this doom and gloom, Premier Christie Clark is very excited about our provincial budget which the government released February 19, 2013. She says BC is one of the only regions in North America to have recovered from the 2008 recession. Minister of Finance, Michael de Jong, was the first Abbotsford resident to bring in a provincial budget. Our Premier also says that families are a bedrock value and education is a core value of all Canadians. Here are four new education programs created in the BC budget that will concern parents.
1. B.C. Training and Education Savings Grant: A one-time $1,200 grant toward a B.C. resident child’s Registered Education Savings Plan after the child reaches age 6. Payments are made from the Children’s Education Fund, established 2007.
2. New B.C. Early Childhood Tax Benefit will provide $146 million to approximately 180,000 families with children under age six, effective April 1, 2015. Up to $55 a child/month, with most receiving the full amount. Those with family incomes between $100,000 and $150,000 a year will receive a partial benefit. About 90 per cent of B.C. families are expected to be eligible.
3. Early Years Strategy will invest $76 million over three years to support the creation of new child-care spaces and improve the quality of child care and early years services. This includes $32 million to support the creation of new childcare spaces and $37 million to improve quality of available services.
4. An interesting ten-week program to help BC seniors, 55 years and older, who want to stay in the workforce to do just that, by teaching them about computers.
By far the biggest budget item in any province is healthcare and the second biggest item is education. The steward of the economy is Prime Minister Harper. But Canada is in persistent debt. Can we deliver major government services, like healthcare, education and social services in a more cost effective way? How can we make our budgets sustainable?