Min­is­ter finds board’s pro­jec­tion con­cern­ing

School body pre­dicts $38M deficit de­spite $41M boost

Metro Canada (Calgary) - - YOUR ESSENTIAL DAILY NEWS - Lu­cie ed­ward­son Metro | Cal­gary

Al­berta’s ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter said he’s con­cerned about claims from the Cal­gary Board of Ed­u­ca­tion (CBE) that they will have a $38.6-mil­lion short­fall this year.

On Tues­day, Metro re­ported that ac­cord­ing the CBE’s bud­get as­sump­tions re­port, the board is an­tic­i­pat­ing the deficit in the bud­get for next school year. The re­port ex­plains that the CBE is see­ing cost in­creases in the 2017-18 school year “for op­er­a­tion of four new schools, grid move­ment in ac­cor­dance with col­lec­tive agree­ments, as well as in­fla­tion and es­ca­lat­ing costs of con­trac­tual obli­ga­tions.”

Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter David Eggen said he finds the pro­jected deficit con­cern­ing be­cause his gov­ern­ment has funded en­rol­ment and main­tained grants across the sys­tem.

“We an­tic­i­pate CBE’s fund­ing will grow nearly $41 mil­lion next year, an in­crease of 3.8 per cent,” he said. “Al­berta Ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cials will be meet­ing with the board on Wed­nes­day and this mat­ter will be raised in that con­ver­sa­tion.”

Joy Bowen-Eyre, board chair for the CBE, said that at $1.4 bil­lion, their board is re­ceiv­ing more fund­ing than ever from the prov­ince — and they’re grate­ful they’ve funded en­rol­ment growth — but it doesn’t change the pro­jected deficit.

“Even though we are re­ceiv­ing this ad­di­tional fund­ing, we still project a $38.6-mil­lion gap be­tween what the prov­ince pro­vides and what it will cost to of­fer the same level of ser­vices and sup­ports as we have this year,” she said.

“This is be­cause ex­penses such as grid move­ment, the car­bon tax, in­creas­ing util­ity costs and the costs of op­er­at­ing our new schools have not been funded.”

As an ex­am­ple, Bowen-Eyre said the cost to op­er­ate all of the new schools that opened in 2016-17 and those that will open next year is $13 mil­lion.

Brad Grundy, chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer for the CBE said his team has done their best to pri­or­i­tize “staff over stuff” as they build the bud­get, and said the deficit they project now is not far from what they pre­dicted late last year.

“At the school lev­els we’re look­ing at less than 1 per cent re­duc­tion in the rate per stu­dent, so all other things be­ing equal in schools that see even mod­est growth there will be very lit­tle im­pact,” he said.

Grundy said they’ve made the de­ci­sion to al­lo­cate $5 mil­lion from their re­serves (sub­ject to board ap­proval), as well as look­ing at de­fer­ring or de­lay­ing cer­tain cap­i­tal projects, and a 3.7-per-cent cut from their ser­vices unit (HR, tech, etc.).

METro FilE

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