FSD passes deficit budget

Education: Division in good shape with healthy surplus

By: Bruce Campbell

  |  Posted: Friday, May 23, 2014 10:33 am

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Foothills School Division 2014-15 budget breakdown

Foothills School Division 2014-15 budget breakdown
Revenues
Base funding — $54,013,164
Differential cost funding — $13,344,493
Other provincial support — $1,542,180
Provincial target funding — $4,927,181
Transportation — $3,905,939
Federal government — $230,000
Alberta municipalities — $102,000
Capital allocations — $3,136,624
Local revenues and fees — $1,163,548
School generated funds — $3,300,000
Total revenue $86,968,424

Expenditures
Certified staff — $52,277,072
Professional development — $398,760
Uncertified staff — $14,542,512
Service contracts, supplies — $14,852,512
Capital debt services, transfers — $5,859,932
Total expenditures — $87,930,459
(-962,035)

The Foothills School Division is still in good financial shape despite passing a budget for the upcoming school year with a near $1-million deficit, said its superintendent of schools.

“Our surplus right now is about $12-million and we feel that is a touch high,” said superintendent of schools Del Litke. “We have had some good luck and some good planning in other cases. Where we would like to be when the framework agreement expires a little is closer to about $8 million. That would give us enough for emergencies and some fiscal flexibility.”

Division trustees passed its 2014-15 budget on May 21 with $86.97-million in revenue and expenditures of $87.93-million, leaving a deficit of approximately $962,000. The deficit will be paid out of the $12-million surplus.

The framework agreement, which is the present teachers’ salary agreement over the next four years, helped ease the pain of budgeting, said Litke.

“What that has given us is cost certainty on salaries,” he said. “We can project outward in terms of spending a surplus now in terms of going forward… in the past, you never knew what your cost were going forward and you couldn’t make that kind of commitment over time.”

Drew Chipman, assistant superintendent-corporate services, told trustees its biggest expenditure is salaries — which he said is money well spent.

“We make no apologies,” Chipman said. “We are a people business. The biggest impact and kids is more quality teachers in front of kids.”

Salaries and benefits for certified teaching staff totals $52.2 million, roughly 59 per cent of the budget. Certified teaching staff includes employees with a teaching degree, including administrators like Litke.

The cost for uncertified staff, those without a teaching degree, which would include Chipman, is around $14.5-million, representing 17 per cent of the budget.

The 2014-15 budget does not have any division paid-for construction for modular classrooms. However, that does not mean the answer is “no” for schools in urgent need of space for students, such as Heritage Heights School in Davisburg and Dr. Morris Gibson and Westmount schools in Okotoks.

“Capital (projects) is something that the government is responsible for,” Chipman said. “The board could decide to do some additional capital work on top of the provincial approvals, but there is no specific dollars set aside for that. If the board does approve it, (the modulars) would be over and above this budget.”

The majority of the increase revenue comes from enrolment growth not from additional money from Alberta Education.

Alberta Finance Minister Doug Horner’s announcement in March of a 3.2 per cent increase in education funding when presenting his budget was largely based on growth in enrolment and no significant new money.

“There was no increase in the base funding,” Chipman said.

The base funding for the 2014-15 budget increased to $54-million from approximately $53-million this school year.

Foothills students will not see an increase in school fees. The division has not increased school fees in a decade.

The division will resubmit an updated budget in November for adjustments to enrolment figures.


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