The Upper Grand District School Board passed an operational budget of $349,624,216 at the June 23 meeting.
Budget chair and vice-chair of the board Marty Fairbairn was quick to thank superintendent of finance Janice Wright, manger of budget Sheila Parker and members of finance staff for their presentation of the budget.
He also thanked director of education Martha Rogers for her determination to balance the budget without cutting the classroom.
“The province did not announce any new investments in education on April 23,” he said. “We were prepared for a loss of revenue, and had to budget accordingly. But in the end we came out slightly higher than last year.”
Rogers noted, “Every member of the senior team has a system perspective instead of arguing for their own portfolios. In my view, this is a good News budget for our schools and our students.”
“Thanks go to all the senior staff for holding the line where required, reducing where appropriate and for their vision of where to increase supports for students and how to increase operational efficiency.”
The board’s capital budget is estimated at $45,289,654.
Many school board grants are based on the number of students enrolled; however, the board estimated decrease in enrolment next year by 500 so the decrease in student population had a negative effect on revenue.
Over the upcoming years, the following grants will be reduced:
– School Foundation Grant will shift funding away from small schools with a three year phase in;
– Geographic Circumstances Grant will change the way remote and rural schools and small community allocations receive grants. Only 11 of the previous 21 schools will be supported through this grant and there will be a three year phase in; and
– the declining enrolment adjustment encourages boards to adjust more quickly to declining enrolment and the phase in will be reduced from three to two years.
Budget holders were asked to submit 2015-16 budgets that were two per cent less and any new items had to demonstrate direct relation to the strategic plan, revenue generation or increased operational efficiencies.
The only grants increased by the ministry were in transportation which was up 2% for contracts, 2% again in the non-staff portion of school operations benchmark and 7.3% for electricity cost increases.
Due to a reallocation of the total funding provided by the ministry for special education, the grant has increased again this year, in the second year of a four year phase-in.
The budget added one full time equivalent itinerant coach position to support early years teachers while they focus on the implementation of the intentional play-based learning mandate that is expanding from full day kindergarten (FDK) to Grades 1 to 3.
One full time equivalent educational assistant to support the Outdoor Education Centre was also recognized throughout the process.
The budget also recognizes a decrease, through attrition and retirement, of 16 secondary school teachers due to declining enrolment.
Software licenses and maintenance fees were increased in the budget to reflect rate increases and the Canadian/American exchange rate.
The increase for in-classroom computers reflects the continuing increases in data by students, and the computer refresh programs to concentrate on networks this year.
The addition of three mental health professionals who will bring a new skill set to respond to student needs was offset by a reduction in four hall monitors.
Increases to education projects other funding provides for 0.1 increase in library staffing.
The budget reflects increases in staff development to support PD for the FDK program, equity, First Nations, Métis and Inuit, and environmental sustainability.
A 0.9 increase in elementary principals is reflected in the budget to support the Couling Crescent community which will be housed in Tytler Public School in September and an addition to elementary school secretaries for Couling Crescent.
Trustees’ salaries increased slightly due to changes in enrolment and a small increase in PD.
Two full-time equivalent positions were added to the human resources department to assist with disciplinary issues and investigations, and to develop and track a wide-range of PD and training needs across the system.
The budget reflects an additional temporary IT position to assist with the implementation of the document management system.
A traffic officer will be hired on a temporary basis to work with stakeholders on developing traffic management plans for schools
Six learning opportunities grants will be enveloped to provide flexibility in allocating resources to student achievement, but must be spent in these areas only.