Budget update to include restored education funding for Red Deer

The province’s restoration of education funding will help maintain services in Red Deer’s public schools, trustees heard Wednesday.

The province’s restoration of education funding will help maintain services in Red Deer’s public schools, trustees heard Wednesday.

Red Deer Public School District’s share of the restoration is $1.43 million and is broken down into seven main areas, said Cody McClintock, associate superintendent of business services.

The largest portion or $445,000 is designated by the province for classroom and community and parenting supports engagement to provide relevant learning resources for students and help provide an inclusive atmosphere for students such as providing for the integration of students with special needs into the classroom, McClintock said.

Trustees accepted the new information and authorized administration to prepare the fall budget update incorporating that data.

Earlier this spring the board planned to maintain staffing and programs which meant running a sizeable deficit of about $1.754 million.

The restoration will decrease the projected deficit to about $1.385 million.

“Now that we have our official student count which is decided at the end of September we’re required by law to provide a budget update at the end of November,” McClintock said later.

Enrolment estimates contemplated last spring called for about 9,335 full-time equivalent students this fall.

However, enrolment numbers came in at 127 less students which represents a revenue reduction to the district of $825,000.

The variances occurred in Grades 5, 6, 11 and 12.

Since the budget was approved schools have hired an additional six certified teachers and six support staff representing an increased cost of $777,000.

The second largest item was $407,000 for schools to develop and test innovative projects during a three-year cycle. If they prove successful they can be integrated into regular operations, McClintock said.

Some $350,000 is earmarked for the district to maintain small class sizes in Grades 4-6 which had been cut by the province earlier this year.

Funding for the kindergarten to Grade 3 class size wasn’t touched in the spring by the government.

“As it is now we expect to be at or very near the desired figures in all those grades,” McClintock said.

Board chair Lawrence Lee said later the board recognizes the importance of maintaining staff and existing programs so trustees aren’t too bothered by calling on reserves of $1 million a year to maintain those levels.

“If that means sacrificing and drawing down reserves because this is what reserves are built for.

“Hopefully at some point when sustainable, predictable funding comes through then it would enable us not to draw down our reserves,” Lee said.

Trustee Bill Stuebing said the surplus needs to be used to maintain program and staffing levels.

“I don’t believe the taxpayers of Red Deer have volunteered their property taxes to education so that we can build a savings account,” Stuebing told trustees.