After months of discussion, the Clearview School Division narrowly passed its 2013-14 budget in a 4-3 vote last Thursday.
Trustees Ken Checkel, Cheri Neitz, Karen Holloway and Rhonda Maginn voted in favour of the motion, while trustees Yvette Cassidy, Patty Dittrick and Peter Simons were opposed.
The 2013-14 budget is projected to spend $32.8 million.
With revenue expected to be $32.3 million, a $500,000 shortfall is anticipated — half the amount of the 2012-13 deficit.
At the board meeting the week before, trustees changed their stand on schools maintaining five per cent of their budgets in reserves. That move was to enable more teachers to be retained, the trustees said.
Combined with alterations on how programs were charged at the Stettler complex, it’s expected to result in less teacher reductions than originally feared.
Now the certified teacher reduction is poised to be 4.05 teachers, with the elementary reduction .4, middle school .95 and high school 2.7.
William E. Hay Composite High School principal Norbert Baharally made it clear at the community consultation meetings that he had intentionally overstaffed by two teachers to spend down reserves and initiate the flexibility pilot project.
Dittrick spoke against the budget.
“I remain concerned, when we look at the five per cent reserve target,” Dittrick said. “There are six schools significantly below that.
“Sure, we are putting the pain off for one more year, but that doesn’t put us in a good place.”
Dittrick said she was also concerned about the “huge diverse number of the per student allocation from one school to another school.”
Cassidy was also opposed to the budget.
She said the changes made to the budget will not address the deficit at Coronation School.
“When reserves run out, you have to live within your means,” Cassidy said.
She said Byemoor and Donalda schools get more “small school by necessity” money than they generate and build reserves with it.
“I have a huge issue with that. It’s not sustainable. We could have done more this year to make the budget sustainable.”
Holloway spoke in support of the budget.
“This budget is going to work on behalf of the students to provide excellent programs for all students across the division,” she said.
“It does the things we asked for last week.”
Pilot project proposed
In an effort to find efficiencies in balancing future budgets, an amalgamation of administrative duties for the Stettler schools has been suggested at the community consultation meetings this spring and winter.
Stettler principals were allotted time on the agenda to attend Thursday’s meeting to discuss the idea, but none were present.
The board moved in camera for a lengthy discussion on the proposed project.
Afterward, Clearview trustees voted unanimously in favour of a motion to analyze and consider a pilot project that would look at amalgamating, in whole or in part, all of Clearview’s Stettler schools.
The two-part motion would first consider potential benefits and implications and would require permission from Alberta Education.
Superintendent John Bailey said the project might fall under the closure of schools regulation.
If approval were granted and the analysis proved favourable, the second part of the motion would establish the pilot for the 2013-14 school year, with the following configurations: prekindergarten to grade six, grades seven to 12 and an Outreach component.
During the pilot project, the Outreach location and administration are expected to remain the same.
The trustees said that the development of such a pilot project would include public consultation.