Funding profiles for school divisions in Alberta were released on March 24, indicating that Rocky View Schools (RVS) will see a $7.3 million funding increase for the 2022-23 school year compared to the current year.
But at the same time, the amount for the following school year will be reduced by $2.4 million, due to a one-time funding adjustment for lower-than-expected enrolment in 2021-22.
“For our current year, 2021-22, the total number of students we received was less than what we projected, so we will see a funding adjustment of $2.4 million due to that adjustment,” explained Steve Thomas, RVS’ director of finance, during the RVS Board of Trustees meeting in Airdrie on April 28.
The majority of those dollars relate to targeted funding for specialized learning supports that require students to be identified and coded, he added, which was lower than projected.
Since the reduction will be accounted for in the revenue for 2021-22, the net funding available in 2022-23 will be $246.5 million, or a net increase of $9.7 million from the current year.
Revenue is allocated to RVS using the provincial funding formula and Alberta Education grant structure, but boards across Alberta have the discretion to spend the money to best meet the needs of their communities.
“This is how the money comes into [RVS] using the grant structure of the government,” said RVS superintendent Greg Luterbach. “Boards have the discretion in most areas, but not all, how to spend that money. So when you get into operations and maintenance, you cannot re-purpose that money and use it in other spots, but you could spend other money in operations and maintenance.”
As an example, he pointed out there is a reduction in pre-kindergarten funding, and the board will have to decide whether to continue running the same programs by shifting money or looking at reductions in the program.
Thomas noted that RVS administration is now finalizing the school division’s 2022-23 budget, which will be brought to the board later this month for approval.
Base instructional funding for kindergarten to high school will be almost $7 million higher next year, Thomas said. That includes approximately $2.5 million from a one per cent increase to student funding rates promised by Alberta’s minister of education in the 2022 provincial budget.
Remaining specialized learning grants of $17.8 million increased by $516,000, reflecting both the government’s one per cent funding increase and increased enrolment.
School funding for RVS’ operating expenses like maintenance, utilities, planning, caretaking, internet, transportation, and capital projects will increase by $1.2 million next year.
Specifically, operations and maintenance is receiving $21.1 million, reflecting an increase of $543,000, Thomas said.
“I do want to point out that this increase is still lower than what we lost last year in this current year,” he added. “This 2021-22 budget, we received a $700,000 reduction in funding, so we’re not even back up to the prior level with this increase this year.”
The 2022 provincial budget also included a 4.6 per cent increase to transportation funding, which means $596,000 more for RVS’ total $13.6 million transportation budget.
“I think the intent with this increase is that with the increasing cost of insurance and fuel costs that transportation providers are seeing, this is giving us additional money to cover those aspects,” Thomas explained.
Thomas added that fuel is a percentage of transportation contracts, currently about 15 per cent, while insurance is locked in and won’t increase. Concerning the uncertainty around fuel prices, it is likely to eat up a good portion of the transportation funding increase, he added.
“From September until now, fuel has gone up 50 to 60 per cent,” he said. “The nice thing is that we do have reserves targeted to transportation.”
Finally, bridge funding will increase by $2.6 million, according to Thomas. He explained there are no details around how bridge funding is calculated, but that it’s likely related to the $2.4 million callback adjustment.
Later in the meeting, board chair and Ward 6 (Cochrane) trustee Fiona Gilbert shared that Alberta Education denied the board’s request for $1.6 million to move 10 modular units from schools across the division to accommodate the increased enrolment at several schools in Airdrie, Cochrane, and Chestermere.
Alberta Education did approve RVS’ request to move the units, but the division will have to pay for the relocations itself.
The provincial government has also communicated it will not approve any modular units this year for the entire province.
“[This] is extremely disappointing and very concerning for [RVS] and our students and our communities as we continue to experience extensive growth in our urban settings,” Gilbert said.
In November 2021, RVS requested 18 modular units for RVS but will not receive any of those. Gilbert added the conversation will continue in the future on how to accommodate the growing student population.