At the Wm. E Hay High School cafeteria on Monday night, April 27 to brief the community and benefit from the collective wisdom of the forum before finalizing the budget on Monday, April 29.
Following introductions by board chair Cheri Neitz and Barron, Associate Superintendent Neale gave a lengthy briefing about the current state of finances of the division and how they would be affected by the proposed budget cuts of the PC government and the government order to freeze the reserves of the school boards throughout the province.
Neale said the school boards throughout the province held a total of over $460 million and Clearview had around $2 million. He said of these reserves only about a quarter was unrestricted and the rest were held by the school administrations.
Giving a detailed analysis how the board was funded by the government per student enrolled and a breakdown of the expenses, Neale said 93 percent of the expenses was going to teachers’ salaries and that he said the school board administration costs at 4 per cent of the budget were below the provincially allowed limit of 5.25 per cent.
Informing the parents participating in the forum about their plans on how to cut their $1.8 million deficit in this year’s budget, Neale said they were looking at every possible item of expenditure from holding off on computer hardware upgrades to changing bussing schedules for students and even reducing number of school days without decreasing the instruction time required by Education Alberta standards.
He explained that the current system of double bussing to Big Valley, Erskine and Botha separately for younger and high school students could be changed to reduce the bussing and fuel expenses. He further added that educational calendar could be changed to reduce school days from five to four, making some weekends a three-day weekend for students.
Neale said the division could save $9,000 per day by saving bus rides through new arrangements.
The questions from parents focused on various expenditure items. Participants questioned almost every spending category from the need to hire permanent custodial and maintenance staff to the question of uncollected school bus fees from non-paying families.
Due to the intense question-answer dialogue during the meeting, a major part of the agenda, which would provide for group meeting involving participants, was dropped.
Neale asked the forum participants to come up with their suggestions and ideas through the monkey survey on the division’s website.
The division must submit a balanced budget to Education Alberta in order to be able to use its reserves for a limited number of purposes.