School board to look at ways to cope with less government funding

Wolf Creek Public Schools board of trustees will have to put on its thinking cap to come up with creative ways

Wolf Creek Public Schools board of trustees will have to put on its thinking cap to come up with creative ways to deal with a three-per-cent shortfall in government funding for the upcoming school year.

At its regular board meeting March 19, secretary treasurer Joe Henderson walked the board through next year’s budget priorities, pinpointing areas in which funding has been chopped.

Overall, he said Wolf Creek will receive $70.5 million from the federal and provincial government for next year’s budget compared to $72.5 million received this year.

The elimination of the AISI grant as of April 1 will leave Wolf Creek scrambling to come up with ways to cover the $220,000 budgeted in the current school year.

The board had budgeted $497,000 for the Alberta Initiatives for School Improvement grant, but will only receive partial funding as the grant is to be cut as of April 1.

“We are going to have to find a way to pay out of reserves,” said Henderson.

Larry Jacobs, superintendent of schools, said the board used the $500,000 grant plus $500,000 of its own funding to pay the cost of 20 teacher coaches in the schools. The size of school determines the amount of time allocated to coaching.

Jacobs believes the spinoffs from the program have been beneficial to students and teachers and needs to remain a priority for the division.

“Priorities need to drive the budget,” he said.

However, Jacobs said finding the dollars for the program will be difficult.

“We only get so much money and we have to decrease one area to increase another.”

A $400,000 grant that covers the cost of diesel fuel will also disappear as of April 1. The loss of the grant will have an impact but the division is already somewhat prepared, said Henderson.

“It will have an impact but we should be able to work with it. We made some major changes to the routes over the past years when we did not have the grant. We will have to make some changes but not drastic ones. We were actually up in our transportation grants for this year beyond what we projected last spring.”

Cuts to high school funding rates will also result in a reduction of about $580,000 and the equity of opportunity grant has been reduced by about $100,000 to $1.1 million.

The plant operations and maintenance grant used to operate and maintain the schools has been cut by approximately $450,000. The Infrastructure Renewal Program (IMR) that pays for building enhancements such as roof replacements will also be cut by about 22 per cent, reducing revenues by about $300,000.

Board chairman Trudy Bratland said Henderson’s overview of government budget cuts has given the board much food for thought.

“It was a lot of information all at once,” she said. “We will need to come up with some decisions on April 3, as the schools are waiting to hear (our decisions).”

Bratland said the loss of the AISI grant could have a major impact.

“This grant sets the direction in our jurisdiction and (its loss) impacts our teachers.”

The board of trustees will meet April 3 to discuss the implications of budget cuts and decide on a course of action.