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Funding boost means no cuts in 2023-24 Delta School District budget

Higher enrollment, increase in per-pupil funding has budget up $6.2 million from current school year
Delta School District headquarters in Ladner. (Grace Kennedy photo)

After three years of shortfalls, the Delta School District is projecting no funding deficit for the upcoming school year thanks to an increase in per-pupil funding from the province.

Released Thursday morning (April 13), the district’s draft 2023-24 operating budget is $187.3 million, up $6.2 million from this school year’s amended operating budget.

Enrollment in the district is expected to grow by 99 full-time enrolled (FTE) students next fall, bringing the total projected number of FTE students to 16,230.

The rise in enrollment, coupled with a 9.4 per cent increase in per-pupil funding (up $740 to $8,625) announced by the Ministry of Education and Child Care on March 15, means the district anticipates receiving $169.744 million from the province — $1.085 million more than in earlier projections. (As enrollment numbers are early estimates, the actual amount the district receives will depend how many students are registered once the 2023/24 school year starts.)

As well, the district is getting a facilities grant increase of $696,000, money that secretary treasurer Nicola Christ says is “certainly needed” as the district faces rising costs.

“We are fortunate that our early concerns regarding another difficult budget year were alleviated by the increase in operating grant funding received. This means that we were able to make strategic budget decisions to address cost increases without compounding some of the reductions made in previous years,” Christ said.

“As always, we remain committed to creating a budget in the most student-centred way possible. We have taken a sustainable and measured approach that will protect the school district from risk and ensure it is less reliant on reserve funds, which have declined in recent years.”

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About 91 per cent of the district’s operating costs are staffing-related, and those costs are set to increase next school year.

There were fewer retirements this school year than expected, meaning the district has more teachers returning at higher salary levels.

Further, salaries are increasing $13.112 million due to labour settlements, while other wage increases/salary composition costs are going up $1.595 million.

Another $2.203 million is going to cover increases to extended health benefits and Canada Pension Plan rates, as well as a new sick leave allowance for casual workers, while “staffing model” increases account for $1.332 million in new costs.

High inflation has significantly increased some of the district’s expenses, such as audit fees and utility costs, and the proposed budget allocates an additional $326,000 towards these. However, the district cannot increase all budgeted amounts, meaning it will have to purchase less than it did before.

Increases in budgeted funding sources, including $17.964 million in additional ministry funding and $827,000 in investment income, will help cover all of these “non-discretionary” cost increases.

Like most organizations and businesses since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the district has seen a significant increase in the number of workers calling in sick to avoid spreading illness to others, and with that comes an increase in costs. For example, through this fall and winter, illness costs increased by 30 per cent (an estimated $2.092 million), exceeding the funds allocated for this year.

“We see that there is a shift in the trend. (…) People are now of course more inclined to stay home when they are unwell instead of coming to work, which was probably more the case in the past. So we’re seeing our illness costs increasing (…) beyond the budgeted dollars that we currently have,” Christ said.

As a result, $499,000 is being added to the 2023-24 budget so as to reduce the district’s reliance on reserve funds to cover illness costs and help ensure other key areas are not negatively impacted.

To balance the budget while having the least possible impact on students and classrooms, the district proposes using $223,000 of the $1.085-million boost in operating grant funding plus operational savings of $422,000 to cover those illness costs and retain a peer support co-ordinator position to provide valuable support to teachers. The position, which costs $146,000, had previously been funded by a two-year ministry grant which expires on June 30, 2023.

Operation savings will be achieved by changing the staffing model for librarians ($200,000), leaving vacant two positions in the district’s Vehicle Equipment Services Department ($191,000) and “carefully considered” decreases in some educational program areas — specifically services provided through a district media library — that have limited impact on student learning ($31,000).

The change in “library allocated flexible time” won’t mean a reduction in librarian staffing overall, rather a full-time librarian will spend nine per cent more time teaching library prep coverage to teachers, accounting for 80 per cent of their work day.

SEE ALSO: Hospital foundation scholarships available for Delta students

While the district expects to see increased enrolment in September, it’s also anticipating 86 more FTE students in the English Language Learners program and 77 fewer Inclusive Learning students, which will decrease the amount of targeted funding overall for Inclusive Learning support.

“Through our budget public engagement process, we recognize that providing support for Inclusive Learning continues to be a top priority for many of our rights holders. Inclusive Learning will remain a priority for using reserve funds to ensure continued levels of service quality,” Christ said.

This time last year, the district was looking at a $2.748-million shortfall as it budgeted for the 2022-23 school year, due primarily to a decline in student enrolment, an increase in staff benefit costs, a carry-forward from 2021-22 to repay funds pulled from the reserve, and various other salary-related costs.

The district addressed its budget shortfall by reducing supply and expense allowances by $297,000, and operating costs by $2.479 million.

The bulk of the operational savings, $1.772 million, came from a district-wide reduction in inclusive learning staff equal to 26.7 full-time positions, representing about four per cent of the department’s overall $43-million budget.

Christ said at the time the number of positions reduced doesn’t tell the whole story, as the number is based on early enrollment and does not necessarily represent how the school year will actually play out. She said numbers are being fine tuned all the time, with decisions being made to support student needs “one student at a time,” even if that means dipping into reserve funds as the year progresses.

According to the district’s 2022-23 amended operating budget, released in February, higher-than-expected enrolment, International Student Program revenues and investment income meant more money came in than was anticipated.

The additional revenue will help the district replenish reserve funds needed to mitigate financial volatility and support strategic objectives — including regular instruction, Inclusive Learning, Indigenous education, facilities and technology needs.

Members of the public can provide feedback on the draft operating budget in person at a public meeting on Tuesday, April 18. The meeting gets underway at 7:30 p.m. at the school board office, located at 4585 Harvest Dr. in Ladner. To sign up to speak, email before noon on Tuesday.

Feedback can also be emailed to, and a short survey is available on the district’s website ( The deadline to provide input via email or the survey is noon on Monday, April 17.

For more information on the budget process, visit

SEE ALSO: North Delta student wins Young Conservationist Scholarship

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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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