Cutbacks, school closures possible in Langley School District

Trustees told Tuesday there will be a $3.3 million shortfall in 2014-15 budget

School closures, staff reductions, program cuts or consolidation as well as reducing supplies are all being looked at for ways to balance next year’s Langley School District budget.

At the Tuesday Board of Education meeting, secretary-treasurer David Green provided a preliminary 2014-2015 budget that shows the district will face a $3.3 million shortfall.

“School closures are not something we can look at this year but it is something we should look at,” said Green.

This year, the school district actually has a surplus budget, something most surrounding districts would be envious of.

Districts around the province are facing large deficits and hard decisions about where to cut as they see enrolment fall each year.

But Langley is one of only a few districts that is experiencing growth, mainly in the Willoughby area.

“Because of the increase in enrolment it helped get us out of our deficit and prevented more trouble from coming,” Green said.

Accounting errors several years ago left Langley with an unprecedented $13 million deficit. Through cost saving measures, the district managed to retire that deficit late last year, well ahead of schedule.

Enrolment in Langley dropped considerably a few years ago, but is right back to 2001 levels, with more than 19,000 students in the district, he said.

Green said the CUPE raise cost the district, and another raise to CUPE employees is expected at the end of June when bargaining wraps up.

The other unknown is teachers will be getting a raise in some form, but it’s unclear who will pay.

He told Langley Teachers Association president Gail Chaddock-Costello he was under the impression the province would cover those pay increases.

She replied that she believed it would be the districts picking up the tab.

Trustee Alison McVeigh made a motion that staff explore cost-saving measures and report back for the May board meeting.

In question period, Chaddock-Costello asked Green if staff and students  would be made aware ahead of time if their program was being consolidated or cut.

“It will happen when conversations are made,” replied Green.

Green said another plus for Langley is the increase in international students. The number of students is up to 630 full time enrolled for next year, providing $1.3 million more in revenue.

The province only increased funding $300,000 from the previous year, so the board shouldn’t expect any new funding increases, warned Green.

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