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Lethbridge School Division Board approves 2019-2020 budget update

At Tuesday’s Board of Trustees meeting, Lethbridge School Division laid out its plan to deal with changes to funding allocations for the 2019/2020 school year.

The Division’s Leadership Team, in conjunction with the Board, developed a plan to address the budget shortfall to minimize disruption in schools.  

First, the trend of hiring of new teaching staff to fill vacant positions resulted in lower-than-budgeted average salary costs. Second, through the removal of some specific staffing-contingency accounts (within the central budgets), the Division has been able to reduce costs.

The combined total of salary savings and staffing contingency is approximately $880,000. The remaining $2.1 million funding shortfall will be funded through operating reserves. 

The Division has been strategic over the past number of years, and with sound fiscal responsibility, has been able to retain operating reserves to assist in difficult fiscal times. The breakdown of the $2.1 million of operating reserves is as follows:

  • $1.1 million from instructional-based reserves (51.9% of shortfall)
  • $650,000 from support-based reserves (30.5% of shortfall)
  • $375,000 from the Division’s unrestricted reserve (17.6% of shortfall).

Overall, with the use of reserves and the efficiencies found within the budget, the Division has been “responsive to the challenge” without disruption to classrooms, programs and services. The Division will continue to work hard over the coming months to carefully and thoughtfully examine the implications of the change in levels of government education funding for the development of the 2020/2021 budget.

The adjustments to the Division’s 2019/2020 budget were necessary, following the provincial budget, announced on Oct. 24.

The budget included funded enrollment for the Division (base funding). However, the budget did eliminate some other grants, which included the Classroom Improvement Fund (CIF), Class‐Size funding for Kindergarten to Grade 3 and Career Technology studies (grades 10‐12), along with the School and Transportation Fee Reduction grants. 

This accounted for a $6.54 million reduction in the Division’s funding. The Division was already projecting the removal of the CIF grant ($1.3 million). However, similar to most other boards, the Division did not expect the removal of the Class‐Size funding, nor the Fee Reduction grants (totaling $5.2 million). A one‐time transition grant of $2.2 million was provided by the province to provide some relief for the grants that were removed.

In total, this has resulted in a $3 million funding shortfall for 2019/2020.

“We were surprised by the both the amount of the funding shortfall and the mid-year timing of the reduction in funds,” said Lethbridge School Division Board Chair Clark Bosch. “The Board and our Executive team have closed the funding gap for the current school year with minimal reductions in our services to our students and no job losses. Unfortunately, our ability to cover funding shortfalls in this manner is not a long-term solution and continued cuts will leave us in a position where our current level of support for our students will suffer. We have one of the best education systems in the world and, of course, it costs money. It is our hope that our government understands that funding less means less services for all of our students, and they deserve better.”

For more information, please see the infographic here: BUDGET

The Division has also developed Financial Dashboards for an interactive review of the Division's financial information. These Financial Dashboards allow individuals to click on the specific financial information within the dashboard, and the report will be adjusted to focus in on the selected information.

You can find the dashboard at this link, by scrolling down to the Financial Dashboards area: DASHBOARD

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