Public School board facing deficit

A deficit of $224,941 will cause the Red Deer Public School District to dip into reserve funds to cover the shortfall during the 2009/2010 school year budget.

A deficit of $224,941 will cause the Red Deer Public School District to dip into reserve funds to cover the shortfall during the 2009/2010 school year budget.

The district’s revenues are around $96.8 million and expenses are around $97.1 million.

“Our grants this year essentially didn’t reflect the increase in costs,” said Bill Stuebing, chair of the Red Deer Public School District Board.

“Our basic instruction grant increased by the amount the government was contractually required to pay our teachers and that was quite helpful. Other grants the increase was between zero and three per cent, which in the present context was low.”

Of particular concern to Stuebing and school board trustees was the zero increase on grants for students with severe disabilities.

“We have more (students with severe disabilities) than we are funded for and that has been a perennial problem for us for as long as I can remember,” Stuebing said. “In this particular year however, not only do we maintain that gap between the levels of funding and the levels of service, but the funding has not increased to reflect increased cost, which puts a greater pressure on us because in effect you’ve increased the gap.”

The public school district receives funding for around 400 severely disabled students through the province, even though the district actually has 465 students who are severely disabled. The zero per cent increase means that although costs go up each year no new funding is being given by the province to cover those costs, even though the division is already experiencing a shortfall in provincial funding.

“These are real kids, with real needs. They’re probably the most vulnerable kids in our system. It’s very very distressing to contemplate that they’re the ones who are going to bear the brunt of the problems here,” Stuebing said.

Superintendent Don Falk said the number of teaching staff will remain the same, but the district will be down a couple of educational assistants next school year.

“What we have done is essentially combed through the budget very, very carefully to find every nickel and dime that we can so as to maintain the level of service. For the most part it is a status quo budget,” Falk said.

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