Another tight budget for Red Deer Public Schools
A lack of government funding for student transportation and student fees will contribute to a $557,621 deficit for Red Deer Public Schools.
The Board of Trustees approved the 2018/19 Budget, which saw revenues of $122.8 million and expenses of $123.3 million.
“The Board of Trustees has approved a budget which again will report a deficit of approximately half a million dollars,” said Board Chair Bev Manning. “This budget reflects the Board's priority to invest in mental health initiatives for all students, as well as to put every available resource into the classroom. We believe the best place to spend our money is on great teaching. We continue to struggle financially in the area of transportation, as well as a decrease in our infrastructure maintenance and renewal funding.”
The provincial budget has a direct impact on Red Deer Public Schools. One of those impacts is per pupil funding. Red Deer Public has seen enrolment growth every school year, however, there has been no increase in funding from the province in the last five to seven years. For the 2018/19 school year, Red Deer Public expects to see minimal growth in enrolment and have budgeted for an increase of 135 students.
“This continues to hamper us when it comes to flexibility in how to spend our dollars,” said Manning.
Provincial Infrastructure Maintenance and Renewal funding has also decreased for the 2018/19 school year from $3.3 million to $2.9 million. The reduction of $367,739 in Red Deer Public’s budget is 11% short from the previous year, putting a strain on maintaining facilities.
In the transportation budget there is also a decifict of $257,621 for 2018/19. In order to mitigate this, Red Deer Public continues to review transportation costs and bus routes. This is not only an issue Red Deer Public is facing, it’s an issue that is province wide.
As well, the government continues to support Bill 1: An Act to Reduce School Fees. The bill eliminates school fees related to instructional supplies or materials and transportation for eligible students who live more than 2.4 kms away from their designated school. This has left Red Deer Public short $300,000.
The introduction of Bill 1 has not eliminated all school fees. Although option course fees are permitted, it was decided not to charge these fees of $300,000 for the 2018/19 school year - the second school year in a row Red Deer Public has chosen to do so. An exception for option fees that continues to be charged are band fees to cover costs related to equipment and travel.
As part of a new initiative, Red Deer Public will expand its Valuing Mental Health strategy by adding a training component, hiring nine full time Mental Health Practitioners and increasing the Valuing Mental Health Facilitator position from part time to full time.
In approving the budget, Red Deer Public identified a number of risk factors that could adversely affect the Board’s operations or decisionmaking in the medium or longer term including the provincial economy and the uncertainty of what next year’s student enrolment will be and the provincial ATA collective agreement that expires on Aug. 31.