Rocky View Schools unveils $215 M operating budget for 2014/15
By: Allison Chorney
| Posted: Thursday, Jun 12, 2014 11:03 am
Rocky View Schools (RVS) is continuing to grow in the 2014 to 2015 school year, which means another year of total operating deficit for the division. However, the deficit is lower than last year and the board of trustees predicts a successful year for learning and teaching.
“We know this budget will continue to enhance the innovation programming in Rocky View Schools,” Superintendent of Schools Don Hoium said. “That’s not to say there won’t be challenges going ahead.”
Much of the challenge is due to an anticipated enrollment increase of about 1,006 students and a lack of increase from the majority of Alberta Education grants.
The division is projecting a total operating budget of $215 million, an increase of 4.4 per cent or about $9.5 million over the previous year. With revenues projected to be about $214 million, the budget would put the total operating deficit at about $1.4 million, which is down from the $2.2 million deficit in 2013 to 2014.
“Rocky View Schools conservative fiscal management has paid off this budget year as cuts and service fees were kept to a minimum despite the majority of grant increases remaining at zero for the second year in a row,” said Board Chair Colleen Munro in a press release. “Parents, however, can expect to see a slight decrease to school services, due primarily to an increase in peronnell costs.”
The division will add approximately 48 certificated staff members and about 48 new non-certified staff members, due in large part to the opening of the division’s three new schools in September.
The new schools will also impact the maintenance budget, which has increased by a little more than $1 million from last year to about $24 million. Of the $1 million increase, about $500,000 will go towards caretakers, $369,000 to utilities and $200,000 to grounds keeping.
“The new schools definitely impacted the operations budget and we’re hoping the government will increase grants to operations and maintenance soon because we’re having trouble keeping up,” said Darrell Couture, associate superintendent of business and operations.
He added in the 2015 to 2016 school year the division will not be opening any new school, which will give it a chance to recover before more schools are opened in 2016.
He added the transportation budget will also see a deficit in 2014/2015 because once again there was no grant increase from the Province and the still lingering effects of the loss of the fuel grant in 2013.
“The department is strained for revenue,” Couture said.
“In this budget we do not have a fuel contingency so if fuel (prices) increase they will obviously have to be taken from reserves.”
He said with this budget, transportation is projecting a $200,000 deficit. The deficit will be taken from the reserves, leaving them at $1.4 million.
Trustee Sylvia Eggerer made a motion to move funds from reserves to cover the total operating deficit saying she didn’t want the government to see they had this money in the reserves and then use that as reasoning for not increasing grant funding.
The division has about $15.7 million in total reserves but of that only about $5.5 million are unrestricted.
“When I look at the budget, every category is starting out with a deficit,” she said.
“There isn’t a lot of the money that we as a board can differentiate but there is a little bit.”
However, the other trustees did not see the move as fiscally responsible.
“I think every board in the province is struggling,” Trustee Helen Clease said.
“But you want to make sure you have reserves set aside. I mean that’s just good practice.”
She added it’s a question of if they want to have these funds in the reserves to protect them should they need them or do they want to spend them and hope for no problems.
“We have to be careful and not have a knee-jerk reaction because at the end of the day we may need them,” Clease said.
Eggerer’s motion was defeated with only her voting in favour of it.
Trustee Bev LePeare motioned to approve the budget and the motion was carried with Eggerer opposing the decision.