The Clearview School Division has approved its budget by the narrowest of margins.
Trustees voted 4-3 in favour of a budget for the 2012-13 school year that shows a net deficit of $998,254.
Clearview secretary-treasurer Lewis Hill presented the budget, which is based on Sept. 30 enrolment figures for this school year.
He listed projected revenues to be $32.782 million and expenses at $33.781 million.
Hill said the deficit would be covered by school and department reserves.
The deficit budgets of the past three years have been intentionally planned to bring reserves down, he said.
Board chairman Ken Checkel said that four years ago, the province considered Clearview reserves, which were at $3.74 million, to be too high and clawed back more than $570,000.
He said that put a different light on reserves, so administration and schools were directed to spend reserves to get them more in line with what the province might find acceptable.
“That being said, we can’t keep spending at the level we have been,” Checkel said this week.
“We will certainly be looking at efficiencies.”
The board approved the purchase of five new school buses to replace buses that are set to go into the spare bus fleet.
Hill said the estimated $420,000 purchase cost would come from money set aside in the transportation capital reserve.
Administration was directed to investigate the use of smaller buses for use on rural routes and report to the board at its February meeting.
“With fewer students on rural bus routes, we are looking for efficiencies,” said trustee Yvette Cassidy.
Clearview’s money woes have been compounded by dropping enrolment, because much funding is done on a per-student basis.
In 2000, Clearview enrolment stood at 2,843, while in 2012, it had dropped to 2,425.
Among the concerns for keeping Clearview’s newly approved budget on track are the current negotiations between the Alberta Teachers’ Association and the province.
“We are sitting on pins and needles waiting for the provincial outcome,” Checkel said.
He said teachers’ wages make up more than half of Clearview’s $33-million worth of expenses.
Cassidy echoed Checkel’s concern.
“We could very well be looking at more than a million-dollar deficit for this school year,” she said.