By Kevin J. Sabo For the Independent
The Clearview Public Schools deficit is going to be less than the projected $1.9 million, though the school board still finds itself in a deficit situation.
Due to schools being closed from mid-March to September of this year, the savings are mainly accounted for through unspent cash during that time.
Another reason for the reduced deficit is funding cuts to Byemoor School, which freed up some additional money for operational expenses.
This information was released to the public, and to the Clearview School Board Trustees during their meeting on Nov. 25, which took place over Zoom and broadcast via Facebook Live.
“It’s primarily unspent dollars in schools, and a decrease in funding to Byemoor which allowed the money to go to operational expenses,” said Associate Superintendent Peter Neale, discussing the audited financial statements.
Another bit of good news for the school board comes from the expenses associated with their front office.
Under guidelines issued by the Province, for a school board the size of Clearview Public Schools, the board is eligible to spend up to $1.7 million for school division administration, a number that Clearview is well under.
“The less money we spend on administration, the more money for teaching services,” said Neale.
Fortunately, thanks to reserves the board has built up over the years, there is no immediate impact to school budgets, with the deficit being funded by the reserves.
“Clearview has been drawing down reserves in a planned manner,” said Neale.
The reserves, which were around $5 million a decade ago, are expected to be drawn down to $1.3 million by the end of the current school year.
“This year, we do have the reserves to cover the teaching needs and extra supports,” said Neale.
“We may have to reduce funding in 2021-2020 to match funding (received from the province).”
Another factor complicating the school division’s budget for the 2020-2021 school year is the reduction in students. When school resumed amidst the pandemic in September, Clearview found itself with a decline of 66 students, close to three per cent of the total student body in the division.
“That is (about) $400,000,” said Neale.
“That is a bit of a decline, especially when it’s unexpected.”
Clearview Public School staff who find themselves off work due to being required to isolate will be supported, according to Neale.
“If they are isolating due to a workplace related event, our perspective is that we will continue to pay the individual because they were exposed at work,” said Neale.
If possible, staff isolating will be set up to conduct “meaningful work” from home.
For staff requiring isolation from a non-workplace contact, they will also be set up to work from home if possible, or the staff are asked to take sick days.
“In those situations, we ask them to take sick bank, but we will allow them to go into the negative,” said Neale.
“In either case, we will continue to support the individual.”
In the case that a staff member does test positive for the virus, the staff is automatically placed on sick leave.
School Resource Officer
Clearview Public Schools received virtual delegations from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the County of Stettler, and the Town of Stettler to discuss a new contract for the Student Resource officer in the division.
The question comes down to the funding for the position, and with budgets tightening everywhere the contract for the position needs to be reviewed as it has not been looked at since the early 2000s.
“We need to look at this contract,” said Clearview Public Schools vice-Chair Kim Smyth.
“This contract is not up to snuff. We’re not willing to sign the contract as is right now.”
All parties agreed that things need to be reviewed, though details of further discussion were not revealed.
The agreement for the program, which was slated to be finished at the end of December, was extended to June 2021 while all parties work toward the long-term viability of the program.