Yellowknife’s public school board is projecting a minor deficit in 2017-18, amounting to less than one per cent of its approximately $35-million budget.

Terry Brookes, trustee at Yellowknife Education District No. 1, presents the school board’s 2017/18 draft budget on April 27 at the district office in Yellowknife. Pictured at right is Tram Do, director of corporate services. – Kirsten Fenn/NNSL photo

But the school board says that will have no negative impact on its ability to offer programming next school year.

“We’re in very good financial shape,” said Terry Brookes, trustee for Yellowknife Education District No. 1 (Yk1). “That comes from just having good staff to manage the funds and reserve system.”

Brookes presented the draft budget during a public meeting at the district office last Wednesday night.

The draft budget amounts to $35.6 million. Revenues are expected to come in at about $35.3 million, with expenses pegged at $35.6 million, which leaves a deficit of $300,000.

Brookes said Yk1 tends to budget conservatively. After 20 years at the school board, he expects the deficit could come in even lower than $300,000 in the end.

“A budget is just an estimate,” Brookes said. “We make the best guess with the information we have.”

Tram Do, director of corporate services at Yk1, added the school board errs on the side of caution so “if things are favourable, you come in better than what you estimated.”

Yk1 maintains a reserve fund that can be used in emergencies or when unexpected expenses come up.

It has decreased slightly over the last few years and the school board will have to dip into again to cover its costs in 2017-18. But Do said the fund will remain within a healthy range.

According to her, an audit recommended Yk1 maintain a reserve of three to five per cent of its total revenues, which amounts to between $1 million to $1.7 million.

“We still have a savings of over a million dollars,” Do said. “We have a sizeable surplus remaining to buffer emerging issues that may arise throughout the year.”

Because the school board is using its savings, there will be no negative consequences on school programming.

“In order to maintain the small class sizes and maintain our programs and so on, we are looking at using a small about of the reserve,” superintendent Metro Huculak said. “Overall, there’s absolutely no reduction (in programming).”

BREAKER: Preparing for junior kindergarten

The school board is budgeting for nine junior kindergarten classes next year, based on an estimated enrolment of 144 students.

Yk1 expects to add nine early childhood instructors and nine early childhood assistants this year to its staff as a result, according to draft budget documents.

Four more full-time equivalent program support teachers will be hired to support students with special needs, while one full-time equivalent education assistant position will disappear.

School boards and MLAs have been calling for an increase to inclusive schooling and aboriginal language funding with the introduction of junior kindergarten next year, but Huculak told Yellowknifer there haven’t been any changes yet.

The school board has until its board meeting on May 9 to incorporate any public feedback and approve its budget.

It is then presented to the Department of Education, Culture and Employment on June 30.