The Calgary Board of Education (CBE) is facing a $38.6 million deficit as it prepares its budget for the 2017-18 school year. While there will be cuts, the board’s chief financial officer stressed that trimming the bottom line won’t come at the expense of the quality of learning in the classroom.
“Reducing spending by $38.6 million means that we cannot continue to do everything in the same way or deliver the same level of service as in 2016-17,” according to a report tabled at Tuesday’s school board meeting.
“We expect services and support levels to students, parents, and schools to be reduced from those experienced in 2016-17. Schools will be directly impacted.”
CBE chief financial officer Brad Grundy said while the province has done an “excellent job” of funding students at an “appropriate” level for the 2017-18 school year, increased costs present a challenge to the board in delivering services.
“We are tasked with making some choices, and those choices for us are based on students, and their learning, and what’s in the best interest of that,” Grundy said. “We’re looking under every stone and at every program to identify those things that impact our students the least.”
To maintain current service levels, CBE would need 4.8% ⬆️ in base instruction funding. Faces $38.6M deficit in 17-18 before using reserves.
— John Himpe (@JohnHimpe) April 11, 2017
To maintain current service levels, the CBE would require a 4.8 per cent increase in base instruction funding. The Alberta government has committed to holding the line on per-student funding for the next three years, with the school board receiving $8,851 for every child in the system.
One area where adjustments will need to be made is in the resource allocation method (RAM) budget, which is unique to each school and is managed by the principal. Board administration is directing principals to place an emphasis on “staff over stuff” when making plans to spend those dollars, using the example of the budget line for furniture and equipment being taken away from all schools for the upcoming year.
Cuts are also expected in the area of the board’s various service units.
“I think there’s going to be some changes in how we deliver services,” said Grundy. “I think we’re going to see very similar levels of staffing in our schools to last year. We’ve talked about being a little more efficient in how we deploy custodial services, tech support, and a range of other services. I think, fingers crossed, we won’t see any substantial impacts on students and their learning.”
It’s expected up to $5 million from the CBE’s $30 million in reserves will be used to help balance the budget, which is slated to be presented to trustees in May.