Minister finds board’s projection concerning
School body predicts $38M deficit despite $41M boost
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.).