In their second-last meeting of the school year on June 1, the Rocky View Schools (RVS) Board of Trustees showed they are already preparing for the upcoming school year by approving the division’s 2023-24 operating budget.
At that meeting, the RVS trustees spent over an hour discussing, debating, and raising concerns about the proposed budget. After plenty of back-and-forthing, the board ultimately passed a $318.2 million budget, which will now be submitted to Alberta Education for final approval.
The budget was originally on the agenda for the RVS board meeting on May 25, but on that date, the trustees decided to table the decision to pass it until reconvening the following week.
In a press release from RVS issued after the June 1 meeting, Board Chair Norma Lang said the budget is based off what RVS has heard within the division’s jurisdiction this year.
"This budget is a reflection of what we heard from families, students and staff,” she said. “[This] should be the division’s focus to improve student learning.”
The press release mentions the division is expecting to see an increase of 1,100 students in the fall, bringing an enrolment growth of 3.8 per cent.
In addition to the influx of students, 49 new teachers will be welcomed into the school district, bringing the total number of RVS' full-time equivalent (FTE) educators to 1,315.
Lang also stated in the June 1 press release that the provincially weighted moving average funding has a negative impact on growing school divisions, leaving RVS on the hook to educate upwards of 800 students without additional grants. RVS will be pulling $1 million from its operating reserve as a way to assist the increased enrolment.
“The division and schools work hard to stretch every dollar of funding we receive from the province to offer students the best possible education and supports,” said Lang.
The June 1 meeting focused mostly on changes made to the proposed budget since the RVS meeting a week prior. On May 25, the budget committee proposed changes to the Indigenous team from one director, one learning specialist, and one connector to one director, three learning specialists, two culture liaisons, and one connector.
Superintendent Greg Luterbach said the adjusted budget proposed on June 1 would see the Indigenous team change to one director, two learning specialists, two culture liaisons, and one connector.
Ward 3 (Airdrie) Trustee Melyssa Bowen said that last week, the board had not passed the budget, which was required to have been submitted to Alberta Education by May 31. This moved the conversation back to the budget committee so they could further discuss any necessary changes.
Bowen raised concerns over the changes and said that out of the $318 million, the only change is taking away one FTE from the Indigenous branch, which is approximately $130,000, and allocating one FTE to learning services.
“There was discussion, debate, and a motion made all in a private meeting,” Bowen said. “It’s hard for me not to feel like the intention of referring the budget back to the committee was to bake this change in without having to state out right the details of the decision being made.”
Another Ward 3 Trustee, Todd Brand, also raised concerns over the budget and made the decision not to approve the proposed plan.
“At this particular place in the debate, I will not be supporting the budget,” he said. “As it currently stands, it’s been very unprecedented and as far as I can recall, we’ve never made such a small yet substantial change to a budget as it’s coming up to final approval.”
Even with concerns raised by a few members of the Board of Trustees, the proposed plan passed and will now be submitted to Alberta Education for final approval