A deficit budget of $975,166 received approval at the November 28 Clearview School Board Meeting without unanimous support (6 – 1). Trustee Yvette Cassidy voted against the motion.
Much of the budget discussion was in-camera (without the public present) as the decisions being made related to staffing. Effective January 1 full-time custodial staff will be reduced to a 35-hour week and part-time custodial to 0.5 per day at sites across the Division. One staff position will also be reduced.
The Operating and Maintenance (O&M) budget makes up 39 per cent of the total projected deficit.
In a subsequent telephone interview, Checkel said the cuts were directed at the O&M department because Reserve funds had been drawn down for many years to keep the District buildings in good shape.
“That money has been well spent”, said Checkel, “but we’ve got to the point where we can’t spend more than we’re getting from the province.”
When asked why she voted against the budget, Cassidy said “I thought more cuts should have been done, we’re still running a $1M deficit.” She also questioned why all the staff cuts were being made in the Maintenance department.
“Going forward all budget areas will have to be worked on,” said Checkel. “We (Clearview) have to start adjusting our thinking and pay more attention this year and going forward to live within our means.”
The remainder of the 2013-14 deficit is from the following departments: Non-departmental instruction (eg. licenses, etc.) at 28 per cent; School and instructional budgets at 18.5 per cent and Transportation at 14.5 per cent.
After preparing the Transportation submission, Associate Superintendent Neale said it appears Clearview may be getting an additional $60,000 for transportation which would bring this year’s deficit down to $81,244. The transportation budget deficit would have been $300,000 greater if not for applying the entire Equity of Opportunity Grant. This ‘new’ grant was effectively funded by the Province taking away two transportation grants.
Although revenue numbers were not adjusted, Neale advised that the Stettler Outreach School received more revenue than anticipated so its deficit is now projected at $53,000 for 2013-14 rather than the original projection of $137,169.
Year-end financial statements
Audited financial statements for the school year ending August 31, 2013 were presented and approved. The operating year end deficit was $742,638 which was under budget by $700.
The auditor, Peggy Weinzierl, of Gitzel Krejci Dand Peterson, said that the District had only used 69 per cent of the allowable spending cap for Administration. That meant an additional $607,000 was channeled into classrooms instead.
Reserves continued to be a big topic of discussion. At the end of August 31, 2013 the unrestricted reserves were $2.76M which is 8.19 per cent of expenditures. The province has never set guidelines as to what an acceptable amount is, but in 2009 – when they clawed back reserves – all boards with a Reserve greater than 3.5 per cent of expenditures were affected. The Auditor felt reserves were still a little high and reminded Trustees that even school-generated funds are part of what the government considers District surplus.
Checkel said previous and current operating deficit budgets had been intentional to reduce Reserves to a more acceptable level. In 2009, the District’s reserve was approximately 15 per cent of expenditures.
“If the 2013-14 deficit Budget comes in as planned, the District’s unrestricted reserves should be down closer to five per cent of expenditures,” said Checkel. “I feel this is a very comfortable level to handle those unexpected costs such as boilers blowing up or students moving into the district who require additional support.”
Preliminary approval was given for 14 students from William E. Hay High School to start plans for a three-week trip to Germany in March 2015. It has been an on-going program since 2004 between William E. Hay and Gymnasium Sanitz, a high school in northeastern Germany. Every year, there is an alternate exchange of students. In mid-September 2014, 14 German students and a supervising teacher will visit William E. Hay for three weeks.
Preliminary approval was given to the Gus Wetter and Coronation Travel Club for a student trip to Ireland, North Wales and London, England during Spring Break 2014. The proposed travel group is comprised of one student from Gus Wetter and four from Coronation, two teachers and three parents.
Automated External Defibrillators (AED)
A spirited discussion took place over the possibility of Central Office funds being used to purchase AED’s for schools. Each unit costs about $2,500.
William E. Hay High School has a portable and a fixed unit. Many board members felt at a minimum the two Paintearth High Schools should have a portable unit, whereas Trustee John Schofer felt it was “just taking away more money from the front lines.” Others thought it was a school decision.
Administration will have a discussion with the respective principals and the item will be brought back to the December 12 meeting.
The Clearview School Board passed a motion to donate $1,000 to local food banks in Stettler, Castor and Coronation in lieu of sending out Christmas cards and purchasing staff gifts. Corey van Zandbergen, Alberta Teachers’ Association representative, was in attendance and said they would again be pleased to partner with the Board and match the $1,000.
The Board would like an opportunity to meet with school council representatives and principals in February. An evening event will be planned at the Clearview Division office in Stettler.
The Board will also set aside five days in the spring of 2014 to visit all the schools in the Division.