The Board of Trustees for Lethbridge School District No. 51 has approved the preliminary budget for the 2019-2020 school year.
The budget includes expenditures of $132.62 million, matched by $132.62 million in revenues, with $731,600 drawn from District reserves to address Board and school site priorities.
The District will be educating 308 more students in 2019-2020, which represents a growth of 2.68 per cent.
In the development of the budget, a number of assumptions about grant funding have been made, as Alberta Education has not released detailed information. Funding from Alberta Education is 93 per cent of the District budget. Funding rates for 2019-2020 will be provided when the province releases the provincial budget in the fall.
“Lethbridge School District No. 51 has taken a prudent approach to developing the budget, ensuring teachers have been hired to address the anticipated growth for the new school year,” said Christine Lee, the District’s associate superintendent, Business Affairs. “The District has taken the Finance Minister and Education Minister at their word that student enrolment will be fully funded, and that education is a priority. The District has assumed all students will be funded at current per-student funding rates.”
With the absence of information regarding some time-bound special grant funds, the District did not include funding for the Classroom Improvement Fund and Nutrition programs. The loss of the Classroom Improvement Fund means there will be 8.5 teachers and 7.5 support staff that will not be maintained from this funding.
The Board is strongly encouraging the province to consider the implications to classroom conditions, including class size, from the potential removal of this grant funding. The District hired 12.5 FTE teachers for enrolment growth, but will lose 8.5 FTE Teachers under the Classroom Improvement Fund, which means four FTE teacher overall have been hired for 2019-2020.
“This will mean that class sizes will increase modestly across the District,” said Lee. “As an outcome of the loss of the Classroom Improvement Fund, the District will be down 7.5 FTE support staff overall in this budget.”
The District has also assumed Differential Grants will remain the same for 2019-2020, and will not necessarily be increased for enrolment growth. Differential grants such as Inclusive Learning, First Nations Metis and Inuit and English as a Second Language, provide funding to support those students who require additional classroom and instructional supports.
Lethbridge School District No. 51 is strongly encouraging the province to include student enrollment growth funding for these grants in the fall Provincial Budget, so additional supports may be provided to students who need the assistance to be successful.
The 2019-2020 budget ensures that teachers are hired for the classroom for the start of the 2019-2020 school year. The District is also encouraging Alberta Education to maintain current grant rates and fully fund for student enrolment growth, including grants that provide specialized support to the our students, when they present the budget in the fall.
The District will update the 2019-2020 budget when funding rates are provided in the fall budget by Alberta Education.
With the City of Lethbridge now reaching 101,482 in population, west Lethbridge continues to be the fastest growing area of the city. West Lethbridge communities were four out of the six fastest growing communities in Lethbridge. The District has requested a new elementary school in west Lethbridge in the Gary Station subdivision.
“Elementary schools in west Lethbridge are at or near capacity, and a new school is needed to address current and future space considerations,” said Lee, who added the District is encouraging Alberta Education to consider west Lethbridge for a new elementary school, during development of the province’s capital spending priorities.
All of the budget infographics, which breaks down the numbers in detail, can be found here: BUDGET.