The Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools dipped into its dwindling reserves to cover a projected $2.2 million deficit in its $74 million preliminary budget for the 2011-2012 school year.
Like many school boards in Central Alberta the shortfall comes from frozen grants, reduced funding and eliminated grants coupled with escalating costs in areas such as transportation.
Board chairwoman Adriana LaGrange said next year looks uncertain particularly in the area of special education. There has not been a funding increase in special education in several years. Boards are waiting to hear when the $12 million earmarked to help the move to an “inclusive” education setting will be dispersed. Education Minister Dave Hancock told school boards on Monday, information will be available soon.
There are roughly 1,500 students with varying degrees of special needs in the district. Red Deer Catholic receives about $7.5 million in special education funding but the costs are approximately $9 million. Over the years, the district has covered the costs by dipping into other areas of the budget.
LaGrange said in the meantime the Catholic board will continue to petition the local MLAs and elected officials to provide an “adequate, sustainable and predictable” funding to cover all the education needs.
“Especially to look after the special needs,” said LaGrange. “How can we incorporate the level of care and learning that they need if they do not have the funding to put the people in place?”
LaGrange said the budget will allow the district to maintain its services and staffing levels.