Vancouver Sun

Surrey schools’ budget falls short by $4 million

- TRACY SHERLOCK tsherlock@vancouvers­­ock

Surrey schools face a $4-million shortfall in next year’s budget, but the board chairman says cuts won’t be needed to balance the books.

“With help from unspent contingenc­y funds such as snow removal, some lower utility costs and unfilled positions, as well as district-- generated revenues, our board expects it will not need to reduce district services to meet a budget deficit,” Shawn Wilson, chairman of the Surrey school board, said on Tuesday.

Unlike Vancouver — where enrolment is declining, the budget is short by about $24 million and 21 schools may be closed in the next decade — in Surrey, enrolment is growing and schools are overflowin­g. Despite the shortfall, Surrey will hire about 50 new teachers and more than 100 education assistants as it adds about 800 students, the district said in a news release. About 200 of those new students will be Syrian refugees. The Sun reported last week that three ar- eas of Surrey in particular are facing overflowin­g schools: Clayton, South Surrey and South Newton. Wilson said there are “substantia­l costs” to managing the growth and overcapaci­ty, which are not funded.

We “are forever playing catch-up with enrolment and about $4 million is effectivel­y skimmed off the top from a very tight budget every year to support our portables, and this isn’t recognized in provincial funding,” Wilson said. There are about 300 portable classrooms in Surrey, which has more than 70,000 students.

On Monday, Education Minister Mike Bernier announced a $28-million boost to education funding, which added $3.6 million to Surrey’s $725-million budget.

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