Clearview School Board budget to be posted on website for feedback

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“We’re a service-based industry with 90 per cent of our budget designated to staffing.  We’re not going to balance the books on paper clips,” was a comment made by one of trustees at their regular board meeting on April 16.  A final draft of the Spring Projection Budget will be approved at the April 23 meeting. The budget will be posted on Clearview’s website from April 30, 2013 to May 10, 2013 for public feedback.
Administrative cuts
The first draft presented at the April 16 meeting clawed back $92,000 from centralized services, board expenses and district office budgets. The cuts were achieved by delaying purchases of equipment, cutting professional development, deleting some Information Technology (IT) initiatives and forgoing one position at central office.
Transportation
The district has not been charging schools full price for fuel used on extra-curricular bus trips.  Under the proposed budget, this fee will increase from $0.75 per kilometre to $1.10.
A $200 annual busing fee will be applied to Catholic riders on Clearview buses, who are outside the 4 x 4 designated area and classified as “school of choice”.  This fee is government-sanctioned and will affect approximately 50 students.
A more sophisticated budgeting tool for calculating driver costs and transportation costs, than previously used, freed up sufficient budget dollars and enables Clearview to keep all current school bus routes in place.
Middle school modernization
Trustees will be asked to approve a final capital submission for Stettler Middle School’s modernization at their first meeting in May.
Although a gym was a high priority, the Department of Education will not consider that request.  Adding a gym moves it from a modernization project, with a high chance of approval, into a new building project with little or no chance of approval.  The board will consider three options:  changing the configuration of the Stettler schools from three to two school buildings; modernizing the current middle school only; or some modifications to both the Middle and Elementary Schools.
Joint projects
The Government is very keen on jointly-funded projects. They have often expressed how pleased they were that the Town of Stettler and Clearview School District built a joint administration building.  It was suggested a gym at the Middle School could be looked at more favourably by the Department of Education if it were not owned by the School District but was a joint venture with the school district, Stettler County and the Town of Stettler.
Student ridership
The Department of Education requires that every child who is eligible for busing be assigned a seat, even though many students, especially in high school, never use the bus.  This presents an optic and real problem as residents and politicians see half-empty buses bouncing around the District.
Provincial politicians encourage public and separate school boards to cooperate more but it’s often government rules and regulations that have precluded rural school districts from making such cooperative arrangements.
Examples noted were restrictions on allowing school districts the use of 16-seat vans to transport children in sparsely populated areas, or the requirement to provide seats for those “riders who never ride”.
Trustee Yvette Cassidy would like Clearview to approach the Minister of Education with a proposal for a pilot project where parents, school districts and government come together to solve student ridership issues in creative and innovative ways.
Budget deliberations
In his opening remarks, Superintendent John Bailey highlighted the reality that all rural school districts, including Clearview, have seen continual enrollment declines over time, including the largest school, Wm. E Hay High School.
Some argue that teachers have not declined in the same proportion as enrollment.  Instead of only six teachers fewer, the district should have 18 teachers less based on current enrollment.
Bailey noted that government funding models such as class size initiative (CSI) and board decisions such as drawing down Reserves, has allowed the Clearview School District to sustain more teachers even with enrollment declining.  “Every school works very hard to keep as many staff in front of students as possible to maximize student success”, said Bailey.
Two schools are in a deficit position, Coronation and Stettler Middle Schools and these deficits will have to be dealt with.  School surpluses or deficits are cyclical. A small school that loses one student, or gains one student requiring a full-time teacher’s assistant, can quickly use up their reserves and fall into a deficit position.  Sometimes schools get caught because of formula changes.
There is also a funding shortfall at the Stettler Elementary School. A previous board decision had moved grant dollars to support a full-time Kindergarten program.  Those funds have now been cut yet the Board would like to keep the full-day program in place.
The budget debate circled around the issue of whether Clearview is “operating as a school division, or a division of schools.”  Essentially, do the trustees direct dollars to the schools most in need or on the basis of government-designed, and ever-changing formulas?  Arguments go both ways.  Stettler schools “earn” more dollars than they get to keep because they have more students.  Whereas Equity of Opportunity grants are generated by schools outside of Stettler yet most of that money is directed to transportation, giving Stettler the larger benefit.
Gus Wetter archery
Six members from the Gus Wetter Archery team, who placed top in their division this year at provincials in Edmonton, shared a multimedia presentation and answered questions from the board.  Daram Van Oers, principal of Gus Wetter, said the team was planning to compete in the national ‘shoot’ during the first week of May. The team has competed in local, provincial, national and world championships.

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