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Elementary band classes spared in 2022/23 Burnaby school district budget

Grade 7 band classes were on the chopping block to help balance the budget, but the school board decided to dip deeper into its reserves so the bands could play on.
The Burnaby school district will continue to fund twice-a-week elementary band classes next year.

The Burnaby school district’s elementary band classes will live to toot toot, ting-a-ling, rat-a-tat and wah wah for another year after the school board rejected proposed cuts to the program in next year’s budget.

Trustees passed the 2022/23 Burnaby school district budget last week.

To avoid dipping too deeply into reserve funds to balance the financial plan, staff had initially proposed $2.25 million (or 17.91 full-time equivalent positions) in cuts, including either eliminating the Grade 7 band program or reducing the number of classes from twice a week to once a week, according to a presentation by secretary-treasurer Russell Horswill.

The proposed adjustments also included cutting elementary daytime custodial services by 3.5 full-time equivalent positions and SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity) support for the staff development team by .37 FTE.

After about a month of consultations with parents, students and employee groups, however, the school board directed staff to take out the proposed cuts to elementary band, SOGI support and daytime custodial services for elementary schools.

The preliminary operating budget approved last Tuesday ended up including 11.24 FTE in cuts (representing a cost reduction of $1,555,062) spread across the district.

But that still left a $4,942,616 shortfall that will now have to be taken from the district’s surplus funds.

“In our new reality and with a recovering international education program, maintaining the status quo budget would leave us with a shortfall within a few years,” board chair Jen Mezei said at the meeting. “This year, trustees were faced with the difficult decision to consider budget adjustments to address this structural deficit yet again. We’ve applied the surplus to this year’s balance as much as possible, recognizing that we must also be fiscally prudent for future years.”

The district projects it will have $10,199,418 in unrestricted reserve funds at the start of the 2022/23 school year, but a three-year projection presented at the meeting showed that fund will have been totally used up by 2024/25.

Horswill, however, said such projections are not unusual and don’t necessarily signal impending calamity.

“This is not an atypical budget presentation on how the district manages the reserves,” he said at the meeting. “We tend to manage the reserve over two years with a projected shortfall in the third year. And then, as we grow and receive different grants or changes in cost structures, we are often able to manage that third year without seeing the large reductions.”

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor