The Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district could face a $6 million shortfall next year.
With increasing cost pressures and indications coming from the Ministry of Education that there will be no increase in funding, the school district is going to survey the public on their priorities and thoughts regarding revenues and expenditures.
The decline in enrolment, salary and benefit increases, and the return to the Provincial Sales Tax could mean that the school district will have to find $6 million in savings.
That is a "worst-case scenario," said board chair Mike Murray, and a "conservatively high number" as they haven't heard anything definitive from the ministry about next year's funding.
Murray said the school district's operations are "pretty lean."
"It's a pretty efficient organization already," he added.
Expected salary increases, inflation on supplies and services, and increased pension payments will add to the budget pressure, Murray said.
"Those are things the government should be consistently providing additional funding for," Murray said.
The school district is required to submit a balanced budget to the ministry, and it is early in the budget process, Murray pointed out.
But, he and his trustee colleagues wanted to get the word out that they want input from the public as they potentially face cutting the budget.
"We don't want to panic anybody... but there could be a serious problem," Murray said.
The survey asks those filling it out to prioritize issues like increasing class sizes, increasing rents for community users, reducing special education assistants, and closing schools.
George Serra, president of the Maple Ridge Teachers' Association, said the survey is not "appropriate" because it asks parents to prioritize items they don't know about and that are currently on the bargaining table - for example, class size.
By conducting the survey, the board can then say that they consulted the public, which takes the responsibility away from them, Serra said.
"If they have to make cuts, they should wear it," he added.
The survey is at https: //www.surveymonkey.com/s/201314BudgetSurvey.