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Higher enrolment improves Burnaby school district's budget picture

After a small, COVID-related decrease last year, local student population grows more than expected.
school district

The Burnaby school district won’t have to dip as deeply into its reserves as expected to balance this year’s budget thanks to higher than projected enrolment.

Once all the revenue and expenses are added up, the district will have to use $4,749,975 of its accumulated surplus to balance the books instead of $6,843,830 as originally projected in its 2021/22 preliminary budget approved in May, according to a budget presentation to the school board last month.

Secretary-treasurer Russell Horswill attributed the somewhat rosier financial picture to enrolment increases across the board.

“The enrolment projection that we used for the preliminary budget was very much a status quo on last year because we were uncertain how the COVID-19 pandemic would have an impact on our enrolment,” he told the NOW. “The prior year we had seen a small decrease in enrolment, so we just assumed, from the budget point of view, that there’d be no growth, but we did see the growth.”

There are 447 more school-aged students (24,125 instead of 23,678) enrolled this year than projected, 58 more students with special needs (1,304 instead of 1,246), 88 more English language learners (5,713 instead of 5,625) and 115 more international students (1,065 instead of 950), according to Horswill’s presentation to the board.

The secretary-treasurer noted the higher enrolment has come with increased funding from the province, but the district is also on track to pay millions more than projected on teachers, substitute teachers and education assistants: nearly $4 million more for teachers and teachers on call and nearly $1.4 million for education assistants.

“There’s certainly a component of additional staff attached to the enrolment growth that was built into the amended budget, but we’re also seeing a higher level of illness leave as a result of the pandemic, so those costs are also showing up in this year’s budget.”

Overall, the amended budget approved last month totalled $325,108,534 – $12 million more than the preliminary budget.

“The amended budget very much reflects the priorities of the board that were approved in the preliminary budget last spring,” Horswill said. “What you’re seeing adjusted for is just the increased revenue as a result of student growth.”

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor
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