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Red Deer Public Schools approves 2023-24 budget

Division facing projected deficit of $1 million
Red Deer Public Schools’ board of trustees recently approved the division’s 2023-24 budget. (Contributed photo)

Red Deer Public Schools’ board of trustees have approved 2023-24 budget, which the division described as “tough” in a media release Thursday.

At a board meeting held this week, the board approved a $130-million budget. With a current projected deficit of $1 million, the state of the division’s reserves will be about $3.8 million as of 2022-23’s year-end of Aug. 31.

The division stated that rising material and supply costs, inflationary pressures related to utilities and insurance and an increased cost for employee benefits have resulted in a challenging 2023-24 budget.

“This budget reflects the board’s priority to invest in mental health initiatives for all students, as well as to put every available resource into the classroom. We believe the best place to spend our money is on excellence in teaching and learning,” said board chair Nicole Buchanan.

Projected student enrolment is similar for the 2023-24 school year, at about 10,570 FTE students.

As material and supply costs continue to rise, ensuring ongoing maintenance and improvements are made to schools became a draw on the division’s budget. This could include projects, from installing a drinking water fountain to replacing a roof, or addressing classroom and washroom upgrades.

The division will receive $1.4 million in Infrastructure Maintenance and Renewal Funding, and $712,000 in Capital Maintenance and Renewal Funding. Both funding totals are less than last year.

Another challenge includes a continued increase in rate costs for ASEBP, CPP and EI benefits, according to the division. These benefit increases combined will total about $1,045 per employee.

“The rise in costs for the division is because our employees are accessing their benefits, which is a good thing and the reason those benefits are in place,” said Buchanan.

“However, that results in increased costs to Red Deer Public Schools. We appreciate the funding that we receive from the provincial government and Alberta Education, but we still face funding challenges.”

Red Deer Public will maintain staffing levels, implement student support rooms in most elementary and middle schools, and implement a comprehensive bullying prevention program.

Identified risk factors for the approved budget includes an uncertainty of what next year’s student enrolment may be due to the current status of the provincial economy; Alberta recently being designated as a high-risk province due to natural disasters causing insurance rates to increase exponentially; and school and transportation fees no longer being funded.

The board will submit it to Alberta Education on May 31.

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Sean McIntosh

About the Author: Sean McIntosh

Sean joined the Red Deer Advocate team in the summer of 2017. Originally from Ontario, he worked in a small town of 2,000 in Saskatchewan for seven months before coming to Central Alberta.
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