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School division approves 2019-20 budget in Bow Valley

BOW VALLEY – School boards across the province are required by legislation to pass their budgets for the next year by the end of May, but without a budget tabled by the provincial government many are struggling to predict funding levels – including C
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CRPS
The Canadian Rockies Public Schools board office in Canmore.

BOW VALLEY – School boards across the province are required by legislation to pass their budgets for the next year by the end of May, but without a budget tabled by the provincial government many are struggling to predict funding levels – including Canadian Rockies Public Schools. 

CRPS superintendent Chris MacPhee said the board passed a $30.3 million budget after the secretary treasurer used a number of projections to get an idea of where the finances would sit. 

“What we did was, since we don’t have a budget from the government, we utilized our funding rates for this present year to develop a status quo budget, using our enrollment projections we have in place, and moving forward in that manner,” said MacPhee. 

“What our secretary treasurer and controller did was take the numbers and get a projection of where this present year’s budget 18-19 would be – which is very risky. So they’ve taken the present year budget and got an idea of where we would sit if we had any deficits or surplus. That was the first step in building a budget for this present year without knowing what the government is giving us. Then we built a budget from there using the same funding rates that were for the present year as well.”

Mike Guindon, CRPS secretary treasurer, said the board is in the same boat as every board throughout the province. 

“This is the first time – I’ve been in business since 2001 – it’s very rare that the provincial government doesn’t depose their budget … so the school boards develop their own budgets,” he said. 

“Because it’s a status quo budget and such, we expect that our November update that the province puts together, their own provincial budget, we’ll have to do an update, so it’s essentially a wait and see exercise.”

Among one of the first moves the new provincial government made, on May 1 it said it would not table its budget until the fall, leaving education boards particularly strapped. Typically, Alberta school boards are meant to have their budgets submitted by the end of May, as per legislation requirement. 

“It’s essentially a placeholder budget. The true budget is going
to be determined when the province establishes their budget,” said Guindon. 

“By the school act legislation, we’re required to submit a budget by the end of May, but because of the election year they extended that to end of June … [Though] during the process we anticipated that the budget would be provided by the province, but that did not happen. So it’s a status quo budget and we’re only filing it because it’s a legislative requirement.” 

MacPhee said since that May 1 announcement, the United Conservative government has said it won’t touch the education budget, which he hopes won’t change anytime soon. 

“We’re waiting to see what will come from the fall budget with the government, they have said they’re not cutting educational funding,” said MacPhee. 

“If there is cuts, it will be challenging for us, but we have positioned the budget that we can utilize some reserve funds if need be … Our number one priority is maintaining teachers in classrooms.”

He also added the former government added other expenses, such as requiring schools to go digital or that all the schools have their own occupational health and safety committees, though no funding for them was ever announced.  

“There’s been a number of changes that the previous government had in play that no funding followed,” said MacPhee. 

“We’ve had to find those funds from somewhere to cover off those mandated changes.”

Ultimately, however, the CRPS board said it strives to ensure one thing is for sure.

“The goal is always to maintain as many staff members as is possible in front of our students,” said MacPhee.