February 23, 2016 12:49 am
Updated: February 23, 2016 12:52 am

Vancouver School Board facing a projected $24M budget shortfall

WATCH: The Vancouver School Board says it needs more money from Victoria, but the provincial government says the school board is the problem. Tanya Beja explains.

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Classrooms could be facing cutbacks as the Vancouver School Board struggles to balance its books.

The board is facing a projected $24.4-million budget shortfall.

“The government just downloads those costs to school boards, and we’re expected to find the savings in our budgets and it’s not there,” said VSB Board Chair Mike Lombardi.

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Lombardi says provincial funding isn’t enough to cover rising MSP and Hydro rates. That, combined with declining enrolment, means the district is facing its largest shortfall since 2003. At that time, 200 teachers lost their jobs.

“Ninety per cent of our budget is instructional staff, so if you’re going to be making cuts of that nature, there’s no other place to cut. Over the last few years, we made cuts to administration, we made cuts to facilities. Now we’re at the point where we’re going to be reaching into classrooms.”

MORE: VSB votes unanimously in favour of plan that could lead to multiple school closures

It’s unclear where the savings will come from, but parents fear their children will see larger class sizes or a loss of music and arts programs.

Andrea Sinclair has lobbied the Ministry of Education for more school funding, but feels the province is ignoring parents.

“It’s like they’re not listening,” she said.

According to the province, public schools are getting a record $5.1 billion this year.

Education Minister Mike Bernier says the Vancouver School Board could save $37 million by closing schools.

“There’s opportunities there for the school board to make those decisions, especially some [schools] that are very low capacity,” he said.

“Those are not short-term solutions,” said Lombardi. “Those are potential mid- to long-term solutions. We’ve got a problem right now.”

The school board is working on a long-term facilities plan that could close up to 13 schools, but that won’t be finalized until June.

The balanced budget is due by the end of April.

– With files from Tanya Beja

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