BOW VALLEY – After the COVID-19 pandemic brought about unpredictable budgets for the Canadian Rockies Public Schools division, the 2022-23 budget should bring stability back – at least that is the hope.
Due to the uncertainty regarding world borders in 2022, the budget for the international student program was described as conservative by secretary-treasurer Mike Guindon.
“The prediction part of it was the difficult part because of the unknown of what the impact of COVID is,” said Guindon. “I don’t think we are out of the COVID element, and that impact will be on our international student program. We are unsure if borders will close again.”
For the 2022-23 school year, the budgeted revenue for the district is $29,447,391, down just over $2 million from the actual audited 2020-21 budget. Drops are expected in revenue from Alberta Education, the federal government and the sales of services and products.
On the expenses side, the budget forecasts $29,827,760, an increase of $1 million from the 2020-21 actual audited budget. Certified staff salaries and benefits will both see an increase of $800,000 and $400,000, respectively. There is also $18,954 now reflected in the budget as amortization of unsupported asset retirement obligations tangible capital assets.
“We have to book an entry of $18,954 and that is to recognize the future cost of asbestos or environmental abatement,” Guindon said. “Any of our schools who have a potential for asbestos in the walls, with the new accounting treatment, we are required to disclose that on the financial statements. It is a new standard coming into play in 2022.”
This is related to schools built prior to 1991 with the possibility of asbestos.
“Because it is 30 years ago, buildings are usually 40 years in lifespan, so we have nine years left of this cost going through the books,” Guindon said. “There is no cash impact, it is just a paper entry on the system on the accounting books.”
The school board set a conservative budget in 2021-22 due to the impacts of COVID-19. A budgeted $29.8 million in revenue and $30 million in expenses was set last year since the more entrepreneurial aspects of the school division such as international students and outdoor learning were harder to predict because of the pandemic with public health regulations and international borders being closed.
With the decreased revenue and increased costs, the school district will operate with a $380,000 deficit for the upcoming school year.
School board trustee Carol Picard asked where the deficit funds would come from. Guindon responded that the shortfall would be covered by the accumulated surplus for the district.
Prior to 2022, the Government of Alberta and Auditor General entitled schools to have six per cent of their operating budget as an operating surplus. For this budget year, that threshold has been reduced.
“Our operational budget was $30 million, so you should not have more than six per cent in your accumulated surplus,” Guindon said. “Within this budget year, they reduced that threshold to 4.95 per cent. It is a variable percentage based on the size of the school board.”