JULIE BERTRAND/Independent reporter
Given the provincial government’s budget policies, Clearview School Division will have no other way than having to operate with less money for the 2011-2012 school year.
While the province has announced increased base instruction rates by 4.4 per cent for the upcoming scholar year, projected decline in enrolment, plus freezes or cuts to other provincial funding will mean expenses exceeding revenues for many Clearview schools and other operations, according to projections taken up recently by the board of the school division.
“Overall, we believe that our student enrolment is projected to be down by 70 students next year versus this year,” said John Bailey, superintendent of Clearview Public Schools.
“That hurts us because funding is based on the number of students.”
Overall revenue is projected to be down by about $528,000 or 1.74 per cent, from about $30,282,000 to $29,753,000.
“We’re looking at an extremely tight budget year, based on everything we know now,” said Bailey.
“The board gave us the direction to try and maintain services as much as possible where it makes sense, to draw down reserves that the school division and the schools have, to cover costs and to also continue to be prudent and responsible in our management.”
On top of the funding cuts, Clearview will have to increase teachers’ wages by 4.54 per cent, respecting the clauses for the last year of a five year provincial agreement to tie teacher wage increases to the Alberta Average Weekly Earnings Index.
The board is also due to start renegotiating salaries with its support staff.
“We don’t know yet where that will end up. The government doesn’t fund that. They only fund for teachers,” said Bailey.
About half of Clearview’s total budget goes to teacher salaries and benefits, while the rest goes to support staff salaries and benefits, and all non-staff costs.
Clearview will have to watch fuel prices as well, as a price increase could also mean less money for the school board.
“We’re making the best guess we can. We may be wrong about the projected numbers. It may be less than that, it may be more than that,” concluded Bailey.