School di­vi­sions bud­get­ing wisely

The Drumheller Mail - - FRONT PAGE - Pa­trick Ko­lafa The Drumheller Mail

Area school di­vi­sions ap­pear to be in good fi­nan­cial shape head­ing into the next school year.

School di­vi­sions worked hard this spring putting the fi­nal touches to their bud­gets, how­ever, much of that work can be spec­u­la­tive.

“Right now we have a ten­ta­tive bud­get be­cause it is deter­mined by our en­roll­ment in the fall,” said Dr. Be­van Dav­erne, Su­per­in­ten­dent for Golden Hills School Divi­sion.

“So, we are wait­ing to see what that looks like. As you know, Al­berta is go­ing through some chal­leng­ing times right now. We are all hear­ing in the me­dia that some fam­i­lies are mov­ing to other prov­inces, so we are wait­ing to see. It looks as though our en­roll­ment is go­ing to be just fine. We still have many ar­eas in the sys­tem that are grow­ing, but we'll wait and see what Septem­ber brings.”

At this point, he says they are not an­tic­i­pat­ing changes to staffing lev­els, but they are fac­ing some chal­lenges. They did dip into their ac­cu­mu­lated sur­plus to bal­ance the bud­get.

“One is the area of op­er­a­tions and main­te­nance. Our costs, gas bills, elec­tri­cal bills keep go­ing up, but we haven't seen an in­crease in grants for fa­cil­i­ties in some time, that is a real chal­lenge,” said Dav­erne.

“That is the same as in trans- por­ta­tion. Our diesel prices are not the same as they were 10 years ago, but our grants have stayed the same. Buses are more ex­pen­sive, costs go up and wages change, so th­ese are real chal­lenges.”

Christ the Redeemer School Divi­sion's As­so­ciate Su­per­in­ten­dent Cor­po­rate Ser­vices, Michael Kil­com­mons says their board passed the bud­get in June. The divi­sion is run­ning a less than one per cent deficit, which amounts to about $800,000, from a bud­get of more than $100,000,000.

“When we run a deficit bud­get we have to have a plan to get out of it, and we do have some money in an ac­cu­mu­lated sur­plus that will cover this deficit. Our ex­pec­ta­tion and plan is that by next year we will be back on track,” said Kil­com­mons.

Like Golden Hills, the fi­nal bud­get is de­pen­dent on en­roll­ment.

“When we sub­mit the bud­get in May or June it is just a snapshot of what we think we are look­ing at next year. The re­al­ity is we have to get through this year. We hire an in­de­pen­dent au­di­tor who takes a look at our books as we wrap up. That, with the Septem­ber 30 en­roll­ment count and when our staffing is fi­nal­ized, when it all comes to­gether, we sub­mit our fi­nal bud­get in November," he ex­plains.

“What we are an­tic­i­pat­ing is about 3 per cent in growth in the com­ing year.”

To ac­com­mo­date that po- ten­tial growth the divi­sion has hired a cou­ple of staff mem­bers to make sure it can ac­com­mo­date more stu­dents. An­other pres­sure to the bud­get is the open­ing of St. Fran­cis of As­sisi, a new ru­ral school near Oko­toks.

“It is go­ing to be small and in­ef­fi­cient for the first year, maybe the first cou­ple of years, and it is caus­ing us some ex­tra con­cerns with trans­porta­tion un­til that school gets up to speed, up to ca­pac­ity,” he ex­plains. An­other pres­sure is wages. “Teachers salaries go up ev­ery year as per the col­lec­tive agree­ment. They move up the grid. We do have a rel­a­tively young staff, so ev­ery year we are go­ing to be adding costs re­gard­less of any other fac­tors, so those three things to­gether con­trib­ute to a rel­a­tively small deficit.”

The change in gov­ern­ment has al­lowed school di­vi­sions to bud­get wisely with­out im­me­di­ately de­plet­ing their re-

As you know, Al­berta is go­ing through some chal­leng­ing times right now. We are all hear­ing in the me­dia that some fam­i­lies are mov­ing to other prov­inces, so we are wait­ing to see. It looks as though our en­roll­ment is go­ing to be just fine. We still have many ar­eas in the sys­tem that are grow­ing, but we'll wait and see what Septem­ber brings." Dr. Be­van Dav­erne Golden Hills Su­per­in­ten­dent

serves.

“For a while the line from the prior gov­ern­ment was ‘you have to start spend­ing your sur­pluses, or we are go­ing to take them away.' The new state­ment, I'm not sure if is a re­flec­tion of the NDP or if it is Al­berta Ed­u­ca­tion, what they are say­ing now is, ‘if you have a sur­plus, tell us the story be­hind it, why you have it and what it is go­ing to be spent on.' We have a long list of cap­i­tal items that could eat up our sur­plus in a cou­ple years if we did ev­ery­thing we wanted to or needed to; from repaving park­ing lots to adding por­ta­ble class­rooms.

“We do have a rel­a­tively small ac­cu­mu­lated sur­plus and we are will­ing to spend it down to make sure we cover off our needs,” he said.

Michael Kil­com­mons... CRSD

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