Province pays up

Local school divisions won’t have to dip into their reserve funds as much as anticipated this year because the provincial government is providing additional funding for teacher salary increases.

Local school divisions won’t have to dip into their reserve funds as much as anticipated this year because the provincial government is providing additional funding for teacher salary increases.

It means the Red Deer Public School District will receive an additional $500,000 in its $97-million budget and the Red Deer Catholic Regional School Division will receive close to an additional $400,000 in its $65-million budget from the province to cover teacher pay increases. Wolf Creek Public Schools will receive around $350,000 extra in its $75-million budget.

“We were a little bit concerned about the fact that we were depleting too much of our reserves this year,” said Bill Stuebing, chair of the Red Deer Public School District board.

“So basically what that means is that there is half a million dollars that we don’t have to draw down from reserves and the government further announced that that would be the grant level at which next year’s grant would be determined.”

Earlier this year, an independent arbitrator ruled Alberta teachers would get a 5.99 per cent wage increase instead of 4.82 per cent for the 2009-2010 school year, retroactive to September. The provincial government didn’t immediately provide the funding for the 1.17 per cent discrepancy between the two amounts, but recently let boards know they would receive the extra money.

The funding will cost the province millions although a total figure was unavailable.

“It’s a relief actually that that has been honoured and it just makes our situation that much stronger going into the next year,” said Christine Moore, chair of the Red Deer Catholic Regional School Division board. “We were always budgeting in case, in a worst case scenario, but that was good news.”

The boards will still dip into their reserve funds this year because of a clawback by the province last August, forcing the Red Deer public district and Wolf Creek to use close to $1 million each of their reserves by the end of the year and the Catholic division $500,000.

sobrien@bprda.wpengine.com