Division forecasts $1.1-million deficit for 2014-15

Clearview Public Schools board members have approved the division’s audited financial statements for the 2013-14 school year

Clearview Public Schools board members have approved the division’s audited financial statements for the 2013-14 school year, as well as the final fall budget for 2014-15.

The documents were presented to the board of trustees at their regular meeting on Thursday, Nov. 27.

Though last fall’s budget indicated a deficit of $963,445 for the end of 2013-14, the division ended up with a slight surplus of $4,865, as reported by associate superintendent Peter Neale at the Oct. 23 meeting.

Neale reported that several departments helped to deliver that surplus through reduced spending and additional grant money, including the schools themselves.

“We ended up almost even, instead of being a million dollars in deficit,” said trustee Ken Checkel, adding that this places the division in a stable position.

Trustee Yvette Cassidy lauded the work done by division and school staff to tighten their belts, calling it a combination of luck and financial prudence.

The fall budget for 2014-15, also presented by Neale, forecasts a deficit of approximately $1.1 million.

Neale reported that the division would draw from reserves to address the shortfall, which he attributed to reductions in overall funding from the province.

Since August of 2011, the division’s total net assets have decreased by an estimated 25 per cent or almost $2.6 million, leaving $7.8 million remaining in reserve.

A report from the division indicated that this use of reserve funding has been done “in a planned manner,” but also warned that by the end of the current year, “the ability of continue with the current operating model may be challenged due to lack of resources.”

Funding increases from Alberta Education have declined, while “non-controllable expenditures” are a continued strain on the system, the report continued.

Despite the decrease in funding, the division reported that staff and expenditures were increased from original projections for 2014-15 due to extra available dollars at the end of 2013-14.

Specifically, staffing is anticipated to increase by 5.644 FTE (full-time equivalent) positions from earlier projections, including a teaching staff increase of 2.9 FTE.

Cassidy questioned the sustainability of the current spending model, while acknowledging the need to maintain student success and staffing levels.

“Unless something drastic happens, we can’t keep this up,” she said. “Are we doing anybody any favours, and especially ourselves?”

On the other hand, Checkel said there was no need for panic or concern, adding that no budget would please all parties.

“I don’t have any worries about what’s going on here whatsoever,” he said, moving to approve the budget with minor amendments.