School district deliberates on budget shortfall

·1 min read

The Richmond School District is facing a $7.2 million budget shortfall for next year.

“There is no question that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to negatively impact our 2021-2022 base budget,” said Roy Uyeno, the district’s secretary-treasurer.

Uyeno said this year there was a negative impact on student enrolment, both domestic and international, resulting in lower operating revenues.

Additionally, a number of changes were required to support the district’s “transitional learning” program, which allowed students to learn from home while remaining registered at their school. Health and safety protocols were also added to make schools safer. These changes were made possible through $9.3 million in federal grants.

Projected cuts would affect teachers as well as some district-based administrative and support staff—including three elementary counselling support workers and one education assistant consultant.

At last night’s school board meeting, Richmond Teachers’ Association president Liz Baverstock said she would like to see the district use money from the COVID-19 contingency funding set aside last year to avoid some cuts. She added that the association continues to advocate for additional funding from the provincial Education Ministry.

Ian Hillman, president of CUPE Local 716, said the projected cuts disproportionately affect teachers and support staff rather than reducing every employee group equally.

“Fair is fair,” he said. “If cuts must be made, it must be done justly and equitably.”

The budget process will be completed by May 26, which is the date of the next scheduled school board meeting. Members of the public can watch the meetings live via Zoom.

Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Richmond Sentinel