Victoria districts gain as province grants schools $8M boost

Schools across the province have a little more cash in the bank, following the Ministry of Education’s release of $8.1 million in holdback funds last Wednesday.

All 60 school districts in B.C. will receive an additional $15 per full-time equivalent student, for a total disbursement of $151 million in Greater Victoria and $63 million in the Saanich School District. The funds are held by the province to cover any potential enrolment increases throughout the year.

The announcement came only days after the ministry announced a provincewide change in school protection plan premiums that adds a $3-million price tag across B.C..

“So, it’s really only a net of ($5 million) for the provincial school districts,” said George Ambeault, secretary-treasurer for the Greater Victoria School District.

Last December, the Greater Victoria School Board applied one-time holdback funds of $88 per student toward the following year’s budget, a contributing factor in the district’s $72,473-surplus for 2011/12, Ambeault said.

“Rather than laying off more people, we’re able to use that kind of money, one-time funding, to keep staff employed for another year,” he added.

The board has not announced its plans for the recent funding boost.

Grants for the fiscal year are based on Sept. 30 enrolment numbers, which are released in mid-October. Once students have been counted and compared with district estimates used for initial budgeting, the province releases the first round of holdback funds – if any – to schools in December. In February, districts tally the number of students in distance learning and special education programs, before potentially releasing a second round of holdback funds.

“A combination of prudent fiscal planning by government and accurate enrolment predictions by school districts means more money is available

for every district,” said Education Minister George Abbott in a press release.

The $3 million needed to cover school insurance will be paid from the grants before they are released. An additional $7.5 million on holdback funds remain available for enrolment above district estimates.

nnorth@saanichnews.com