Red Deer Public Schools will tackle mental health in its 2018-19 budget.
The RDPS board of trustees recently approved the budget that will operate at a $557,621 deficit, with revenues of $122.8 million and expenses of $123.3 million.
The budget includes the hiring of nine full-time mental health practitioners and increasing the valuing mental health facilitator from part-time to full-time. This is a part of RDPS expanding its Valuing Mental Health strategy.
“Over the last year we’ve done some extensive community consultation about valuing mental health,” said Bev Manning, board chair. “People are very concerned about the mental health of our students. We’ve always tried to support them and encourage them to be healthy.”
Manning said there is no pressing timeline to fill the new positions.
“We want to make sure we get the right people in the right places. We’re excited about it and very encouraged.
“I think this is going to provide us some excellent opportunities in the future and we’re going to produce more all-rounded students at the end of the day,” said Manning.
Manning said the budget deficit is due to a lack of government funding for student transportation and student fees.
“There are a few areas where we’re stretched very tight. What would be most helpful for us would be if the government came through with the per pupil grant funding,” she said.
Student enrolment has increased at RDPS every year, but there has been no increase in per pupil funding from the province in the last five to seven years.
“This continues to hamper us when it comes to flexibility in how we spend out dollars,” said Manning. Per pupil funding “gives us the most flexibility in how to use that money so we can handle the hot spots as they arrive.”
There is a $257,261 deficit in the transportation budget. In order to mitigate this, RDPS continues to review transportation costs and bus routes. Manning said this is a provincewide issue.
Provincial infrastructure maintenance and renewal funding decreased for the 2018-19 school year from $3.3 million to $2.9 million – a $367,739 reduction.