By Stu SalkeldThe Stettler Independent
Even after serving as trustees for Clearview Public Schools for years, trustees showed during their regular meeting Aug. 31 an issue such as the high school running track can elicit deeply differing views.
During the regular meeting of the board of trustees, the topic of “reserve planning” was discussed. Trustee Ken Checkel began the discussion by describing the financial situation about one year ago, around the end of October, 2016 when trustees were given a report on financial reserves.
“We had quite a significant amount of money,” said Checkel. Checkel noted trustees then decided what they were going to do with the money, and likened it to the classroom improvement fund money this past spring.
The trustee said he would like to see a session or meeting where the board could look at reserves and set out a list of priorities, in essence, for unspent or unbudgeted money. “I’ve got some ideas,” said Checkel.
He went on to state that last year a significant amount of money was set aside for the running track at the high school to be upgraded or repaired and he said, frankly, he could think of better ways to spend that money.
Assistant superintendent Peter Neale stated that not everything that’s listed on a budget represents money in the bank; he noted the division still has not received insurance money for the running track and that the issue is still before the courts and is being disputed. Apparently, a judge is still considering the issue.
Neale went on to say there may be some money in contingency, but not as much as last year. The amount was described as being somewhat less than $100,000. There may also be some unspent money in the staff support fund. The strategic initiatives fund may not offer as much because a lot of that has been put into literacy projects.
However, Neale said trustees should give their input as it fits into the strategic plan.
Trustee Yvette Cassidy noted that if Alberta Education really is $377 million short because of oil and gas revenue shortfalls, it’s said those shortfalls will be made up by grant cuts across the board. Cassidy noted if grants are cut mid-year, school boards are going to need something to pick up that financial slack.
Trustee John Schofer said he likes the idea of having some funds in reserve in case of an unforeseen problem.
Trustee Karen Holloway agreed and said a discussion should be held so the best use is made of any money and not necessarily the running track. “There are tons of places to put money, if we have money,” said Holloway.
Checkel said he wasn’t arguing the importance of reserves, just pointing out any money above that should be wisely spent as everything boils down to instructional dollars. He stated perhaps even public consultation is in order if the amount of money is significant.
Cassidy said she sees value in the running track. “I’m really torn about the running track,” said Cassidy.
Cassidy said Wm. E. Hay is a premier school in the region, and having good athletic fields and the track make Stettler attractive for holding large events.
Deputy chair Dave Goodwin agreed. “We have to keep a large picture,” said Goodwin. Goodwin said not all educational projects are in a classroom.
Checkel said he didn’t feel the running track is an important draw to Stettler. “I don’t believe it,” he said.
Checkel also noted that even if the running track is vital to the community, it’s situations like these that other partners in the community should help out with. Checkel said he feels Clearview Public Schools takes on a leadership role too often, and for things like community amenities. “That’s not really our focus,” said Checkel.
Cassidy noted there used to be a community recreation board that included important stakeholders that would handle issues like community-wide amenities. She suggested the idea of such a board be mentioned at joint or regional meetings.
Superintendent Peter Barron suggested this topic be placed on the agenda for the next meeting. Trustees could then discuss criteria for certain reserve money. Barron also noted the municipal election is so close, the middle of October, that the new board of trustees will likely be making decisions related to this issue.
Board chair Cheri Neitz felt that was the best approach. “I think that’s a good idea,” she added.