Strong enrolment growth and cost savings on operations and maintenance left the Red Deer Catholic Regional School Division with a sizeable budget surplus for the 2012-13 fiscal year.
The division posted a surplus of $4.2 million for the year, with revenues of $84.1 million and expenses just below $80 million. A slight deficit had been projected at the beginning of the year.
The division had projected its enrolments to grow by about 1 per cent, but growth of just over 5 per cent occurred. Since the province allocates funding to school divisions based on student numbers, the board had a greater revenue stream.
Board chair Guy Pelletier said expenses would typically go up with rising enrolments as well, but thanks to savings in division operations and maintenance, expenses for the year ended up being about $1.2 million less than expected.
The surplus will go into divisional reserves, with some of the funds expected to be allocated this year to inclusive education — for special needs and non-native English speaking students, for example — and perhaps the installation of up to eight modular classrooms for schools in Red Deer.
“We are seeing some changes to the way our inclusive education is funded, and our funding will drop quite dramatically starting next fiscal year,” said Pelletier.
With strong enrolment growth again in 2013-14, the division is expecting a balanced budget for the current fiscal year, with expenses in the range of $82.5 million.
Also at its Nov. 26 meeting:
l The board directed administration to review the division’s procedures relating to the singing of O Canada. The division’s current procedure largely leaves the frequency of anthem singing to each school principal’s discretion, though all schools must include it at least once a week during opening exercises.
Pelletier said some schools sing it only once per week, while others do twice a week or five times a week. The decision to review was made in response to a parent’s concern that patriotism displays were not frequent enough.
“Some people would suggest it should be sung five times a week, and some schools do that, particularly at the younger grades,” he said.
l Performance by students within the division has exceeded provincial standards for the fifth year in a row, according to Alberta Education data.
Within the division, the high school completion rate of 86 per cent is 11 per cent higher than the provincial average while the drop out rate of 1.4 per cent is less than half of the province-wide standard.
While students within the division scored higher than average results on provincial achievement tests (PAT) as well, scores in the division declined significantly over the last year.
l The board unanimously supported the city’s 2019 Canada Winter Games bid. If the bid is successful, both the Red Deer Catholic and Red Deer Public school divisions would likely see their schools closed for a week at a time, with school transportation and facilities being used by Games athletes.