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SD48 sees greater revenues, greater expenses in 23-24

The local school district is spending almost $3 million on leave expenses

The Sea to Sky School District (SD48) has an updated budget for the current year, with a revised pile of numbers coming in at the Feb. 14 finance committee meeting.

Revenues are up, but expenses are keeping pace.

In a presentation, SD48 director of finance Elena Meden said revenues are up by $3.93 million over the preliminary budget numbers first projected back in June 2023, to $79.16 million.

A good chunk of that money came from enrolment numbers.

“From our projected enrolment, there was a change of 88.75 student enrolments,” she said. “[And] 88.75 more students resulted in $1.7 million more in operating grants.”

Enrolments are calculated by the number of units students are taking, not the number of students themselves. Overall, the district received $45.5 million in enrolment-based funding from the province.

Operating grants from the province were up by $2.26 million to $62.5 million.

Other revenue sources, which is a wide definition, produced a mixed bag of results, though. International tuition revenues were down by $213,000, while interest income was up by $380,000. Overall, other revenue sources were up $625,000.

Notably, the district’s finances were balanced by bringing in funds from its surplus—which is money left over from previous years. Half a million came from unrestricted surplus, while overall surplus funds of $1.7 million were pumped into the revenues column to account for rising costs—more than $800,000 more than projected.

On costs, as required, they aligned with revenues—Meden reported allocated revenues were $79,115,453; $3,983,835 more than in the preliminary budget.

Of note, Meden pointed out the large and growing cost of leave expenses—with the majority of that cost coming from staff taking more sick time. The projected cost was $2.25 million, and the revised number was $2.93 million—a difference of $680,000.

“As a result of this, the district had to find efficiencies to balance the rest of the budget,” she said.

SD48 superintendent Chris Nicholson jumped in to say growing leave expenses is a trend across the sector, as the message that those who are sick should stay home was “heard loud and clear.”

“Folks are taking care of themselves, post-COVID … and then as a result, our costs for sick-leave provisions have gone up dramatically since prior to COVID, which is why we’re seeing these big numbers,” he said.

Nicholson said pre-COVID, leave provision costs would have been about $1 million less than the numbers seen in 2024.

“We want to take care of our people, but that cost is borne by the district, and that has an impact on the bottom line, which is why we’re speaking to where we’re trying to trim down, why we’re doing a good job supporting our folks, and also why we’re re-allocating from unrestricted surplus,” he said.

“The wellness of our staff is super, super important.”

During discussion, the rising sick leave costs were brought up as an area of advocacy across school districts given the health recommendations that anyone who is sick stay home, with board member Celeste Bickford noting the cost of those recommendations is being borne by the districts, so it should be an area in which the province can step in to help.

“Eventually it’s going to chip away at what we’re able to offer, so it ought to be something that’s on the province’s radar,” she said.

For now, Meden talked about areas the district is making adjustments—noting almost every line item in support services had reduced expenses in the revised budget, for savings of just over $900,000.

The entire budget report can be read on the SD48 website, and the finance committee meeting can be watched on YouTube. 

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