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Delta School District projecting nearly $1.4-million budget shortfall for 2024/25

Inflation, unfunded wage/benefit increases key drivers of deficit equaling 0.7% of operating expenses
Members of the public are invited to provide feedback on the draft 2024/25 operating budget during an input session at Delta School District headquarters in Ladner (pictured) on Tuesday, April 23. (Grace Kennedy/North Delta Reporter photo)

The Delta School District is once again projecting a budget shortfall for the coming school year.

This morning (April 18), the district released its proposed annual operating budget for 2024/25 of $197.486 million, up $772,000 from the 2023/24 amended annual operating budget of $196.714 million.

The district is projecting a budget shortfall of $1.388 million, approximately 0.7 per cent of the 2024/25 budgeted operating expenses.

According to a district press release, key drivers of the shortfall include unfunded wage and benefit increases, inflation and other non-salary related costs, new technology and cybersecurity-related software licensing, illness cost increases, an increase in investment income, new government grant net contributions, and a slight upward adjustment to the secondary school pupil-teacher ratio. About 90 per cent of the district’s operating costs are staffing-related.

Last month, the Ministry of Education and Child Care announcement a total operating grant of $174.491 million for the Delta School District, including a 3.4 per cent increase in per-pupil funding.

The grant increase aims to cover wage increases for teachers, support staff and non-educator exempt positions, as well as a one per cent cost of living allowance for these employees.

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A press release accompanying the draft budget notes that though this year’s operating grant is the highest ever received by the district, it has not addressed the full impact of inflation and other costs, including increases to Employment Insurance, WorkSafe, Canada Pension Plan and extended health and dental benefit premiums.

“Like all other school districts, the Delta School District continues to face budgets that have experienced years of reductions and ongoing budgetary pressures from operating in tight financial times,” Nicola Christ, secretary-treasurer for the Delta School District, said in a press release.

“While we are pleased that the ministry has increased the per-pupil amounts by 3.4 per cent for next year, unfortunately it’s not enough to cover increased costs, which results in a shortfall. High inflation and increases to other unavoidable costs, including illness costs and rapidly increasing technology costs, combined with uncertainties in revenue sources, are exerting great pressure on our budget and require us to make reductions to some budget areas this year. Ultimately, we have to live within our means.”

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As this year’s graduating Grade 12 class is larger than the anticipated incoming kindergarten cohort, the district is predicting a decrease in overall student enrolment for the upcoming school year — 89 fewer full-time enrolled students than the 16,280 seen in 2023/24.

Last spring, the district was projecting a balanced budget for this school year, one without a funding deficit after three straight years of shortfalls.

Still, reductions year after year have left very little flexibility in the district’s finances. Going into this planning cycle, departments were asked to take a new approach by building a budget from scratch rather than the usual approach of trimming their current allocations to balance the books.

As a result of this “zero-based budgeting,” district staff have found a number of savings and other sources of funding they believe will have the least possible negative impact on students and classrooms while ensuring continued proportionality of staffing and cost-effectiveness, the release states.

Balancing initiatives include decreasing administration costs and supplies ($46,000); cutting one unfilled teacher position ($89,000), a move the district notes will not impact the classroom; and finding “efficiencies” in the Learning Support Teacher program while still maintaining student/staff ratios higher than required by the province ($392,000).

There are also savings resulting from unspent budget allocated for wages due to from unintended delays in finding candidates to fill positions in the current competitive labour market ($409,000); plus special purpose funding available following the phasing-out of program areas that have limited impact on student learning, which can be used to support some EA staffing currently paid for through the district’s operating fund ($139, 000).

As well, the district proposes reallocating money previously budgeted for the district’s long-standing food program now the provincial offers funding through its new Feeding Futures program ($34,000).

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The district also cautiously anticipates having $279,000 in revenue from the International Student Program that it can use to help balance the budget.

In building the proposed budget, staff took into account feedback it received via an online survey earlier this spring as well as by email, regular mail and through schools’ parent advisory councils.

“The approach resulted in more than 180 responses which highlighted support for Inclusive Learning as a top priority,” Christ said. “Additional priorities identified for the budget include art, music, physical education and STEM, general classroom/equipment and a focus on learning the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic.

“We have taken this feedback into consideration while also adopting a new approach to structuring this year’s budget that will address ongoing and emerging cost pressures, help to protect the school district from risk and reduce negative impact on students and staff as best as possible while living within our means in increasingly difficult financial times.”

The public now has the opportunity to let Delta’s school board what it thinks about the draft budget before trustees vote to amend or approve it on April 30.

Parents and stakeholders can provide their feedback directly by attending and speaking at the draft budget public input meeting on Tuesday, April 23. The session begins at 7:30 p.m. following the regular meeting of board 4585 Harvest Dr. in Ladner. To sign up to speak at the meeting, email by noon on Monday, April 22.

Members of the public can also send provide input by emailing by noon on April 22, or by completing the online survey at

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James Smith

About the Author: James Smith

James Smith is the founding editor of the North Delta Reporter.
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