By Kalinowski, Tim on March 3, 2020.
New education funding announced in last week’s provincial budget will not cover the $3 million cut from Lethbridge School Division’s budget by the province in the fall of 2019, says Lethbridge School Division superintendent Cheryl Gilmore.
“This year we received $110 million and next year we’ll be receiving $111.3 million … (but) we have $3 million less budget than we did in 2018/2019 school year from the fall reduction budget,” she explains. “So we will be looking for $3 million there because we covered that by our own reserves this year. The additional difficulty we have is $1 million of the $1.3 million (base-funding grant increase) is non-transferrable facilities money and $300,000 more is for students. But at the same time, we have estimated we will have 230 more students (in 2021) than we do this year. So that $300,000, of course, doesn’t begin to cover that expense.”
And further, she says, the new three-year Weighted Moving Average funding formula introduced by the province last week will leave the school division short of funding to cover the needs of those 230 students because it is based on this year’s numbers and does not account for growth. This funding formula could effectively continue to cripple the school division going forward, she explains.
“The Weighted Moving Average doesn’t favour any jurisdiction that is growing,” Gilmore states. “If you are growing, you are always funded for fewer students than you actually have in your buildings.”
Gilmore says her school board members will be in retreat this week to try to figure out a strategy for the school division to cope with a chronic, ongoing shortage of funding in the years ahead, and how best to absorb these year-over-year cuts imposed by the province in the least disruptive way possible for students.
“The additional funding that was put into plant operation and maintenance was very welcome,” she says. “In terms of the instructional budget, I can say we’ll need to do more with less. We will need to serve an additional 230 students without the reserve levels to fully support the $3 million (reduction) we felt this year.”
She says all options to meet that funding shortage are on the table, and it is too early to speculate on what steps or measures will need to be taken next.
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