Education takes hit as Clearview mulls provincial budget

Alarm bells rang in concert with school bells Thursday as the province introduced a budget that’s expected to cause major cuts

Alarm bells rang in concert with school bells Thursday as the province introduced a budget that’s expected to cause major cuts to education across the board.

Clearview School Division called a special meeting Monday to discuss implications the provincial budget would have on the school board’s community consultation meetings.

Those meetings began last night at Byemoor.

Board chairman Ken Checkel said Monday that as a result of the provincial budget, some education funding programs were increased marginally, some were totally cut, while others remained unchanged.

He said the board and administration are still in the process of analyzing how the budget changes will affect Clearview’s financial picture.

It’s estimated program changes will result in a drop of more than $600,000 in overall funding, but Checkel said that figure could change when the budget changes are digested more thoroughly.

He said the basic instruction grant of $6,561.68 for every student enrolled in Clearview remains unchanged. That grant accounts for half of the funding the school division receives.

The Fuel Price Contingency grant and the Alberta Initiative for School Improvement grant are both being cut entirely, as of April 1, Checkel said.

“That will impact Clearview’s budget.”

The fuel grant contributed about $200,000 to the transportation budget last year.

The Class Size Initiative grant will see a two per cent increase and the Equity of Opportunity grant appears to have increased substantially, Checkel said.

The Clearview board acknowledged it will face tough times ahead.

With declining enrolments, decreased funding, increased expenses and limited reserves, cuts to staffing are imminent.

Another factor in the equation is the ongoing negotiations with the Alberta Teachers’ Association. It’s uncertain how much that settlement could cost the budget.

Trustees noted the number of teachers on staff has not dropped by the same rate as enrolment declines. By spending down reserves, the board was able to keep more teachers in the classroom, at least for now.

The board has repeatedly said it can no longer budget for million-dollar deficits, now that reserves are becoming depleted.

Clearview trustees and administration are taking their financial position to the communities for input on how to balance the budget and yet minimize impact and ensure “good programming” is still available for students.

The board has discussed ideas and options to balance its budget, but said it’s open to ideas from the communities before making any decisions.

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