School district pays off its debt

The $13.5 million debt has been dealt with, but it won't be official until the fiscal year ends.

They aren’t popping the champagne corks just yet, but the Langley School District has paid off its deficit, two years ahead of schedule.

The announcement came at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting, while secretary treasurer David Green outlined the district’s $182 million 2012/13 budget.

“We will have retired the deficit and balanced the budget, but we have to wait until June 30th’s financials to make it official,” said Green.

“That is hugely commendable,”said trustee Alison McVeigh.

Board chair Wendy Johnson thanked students, staff and teachers for going through these challenging times.

“It’s been tough on the system, our schools have felt it,” said Johnson. “Thank you to our teachers, our support staff, our administration. The good news is we paid it off two years ahead of time.”

Through accounting errors, the district was challenged with an unexpected $13.5 million deficit that forced the government to step in and the Auditor General set up a repayment plan that the district would have to abide by.

The payments were to go until 2014.

But all this good news should be met with caution, said Green to trustees.

“There are significant cost pressures coming,” he said.

An increase of $1.2 million for teachers’ pensions with bargaining for teachers to start next week on top of that.

In the recently announced provincial budget, MSP premiums were going up. There was also no new funding for education.

“Utilities are also going up on April 1,” Green said. The impact on the provincially mandated co-operative gains program is yet to be determined, said Green.

All school districts are required to pay for wage increases for teachers but with no help from the province and they aren’t allowed to cut any services. This could potentially mean $7 million chunk out of Langley’s budget without cutting services.

The budget means the school system will have the same level of services it did last year, with no extras.

Trustee Megan Dykeman was the only one to vote against the amended budget, saying it isn’t good enough to stay with the “status quo.”

“We have to work with the money we get. There isn’t going to be a lot of extras,” said McVeigh.

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