Langley school budget almost $190 million

Secretary-treasurer expresses concern about percentage of budget that goes to salaries and benefits.

In 1934, Langley school board passed an annual operating budget of $25,000.

Fast forward to today, and the board is looking at passing a $189.8 million budget for the 2014-15 school year.

Secretary-treasurer David Green presented the comparison to add a bit of ‘humour’ to his presentation of the upcoming year’s financials at a board of education meeting held at Township hall on Monday, June 2.

The venue was changed to respect the striking teachers.

Expenditures are up about $1.2 million from last year, mainly for increased staffing to fill the new schools that have opened and the middle school set to open in September in Yorkson.

School boards are required to submit an annual balanced budget to the Ministry of Education by June 30. Langley is dipping into its projected surplus to balance the budget. Unlike so many districts across B.C., it isn’t facing a deficit. But Green has cautioned that Langley could face one again if it doesn’t find new ways to save money in the future.

There was a budget open house held on Tuesday.

On June 17, after feedback from the public is received, the board will vote on third reading of the budget.

Showing a graph of districts of comparable size, Langley pays out the highest amount of its budget, 91.55 per cent, to salaries and benefits.

Neighbouring Abbotsford pays out 89 per cent of its budget in the same categories.

In comparison, Langley paid out the lowest amount, 8.45 per cent, to supplies and services.

Having the budget being eaten up by salaries is not sustainable, warned Green.

“We are well over the B.C. average. What this tells me is this is not sustainable. It should be down to 89 per cent of the budget and we should increase the percentage of services and supplies,” Green said.

“It does reflect, however, that we did put in three new schools that had to be staffed but we have schools with continued decline of enrolment and we need to start looking at that.”

Costs for district administration staff are similar to other districts of similar size, he said.

There were some concerns outlined by trustees. The district spent $182,000 to host 45 students from Thailand for a semester last year. The money was spent on paying families to host them, for ESL and for “cultural experiences.”

Superintendent Suzanne Hoffman said hosting the international students was both a cultural and financial success, with the district coming out $40,000 ahead.

The District PAC president asked about two new hires in the district: a health and wellness officer and safety officer to get staff back to work faster and  check people’s work spaces.

That is why the district budgeted to pay out less for substitutes next year, said Green.

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