With decreasing enrolment numbers expected over the next few years in the Prairie Rose School Division (PRSD), the board has taken steps to increase spending in efforts to stabilize those enrolment figures through additional programming.
Increased spending for new programs, such as the South Alberta Hockey Academy will be money well spent, according to PRSD Treasurer Ryan Boser.
"We got a sense in the springtime that we were going to come in under-budget, that was after the preliminary budget was completed," said Boser. "So, you use that information that you have to help generate the budget decisions going forward."
"It's important to us to ensure that new initiatives were staffed appropriately, and ensuring that we have the appropriate amount of staff to support our students," he added.
While PRSD is working with a deficit budget of $99,610 for the 2018-19 fiscal year, an increase of $76,235 from the preliminary budget that was presented earlier this year, the added programming and under-budget items will help in recovering the shortfall and work towards the Board’s goal of balancing the budget.
In an overview of the budget report, Boser writes, "Given that the division's reserves have decreased to a position where they will cover approximately only two more years of current spending levels, direction was provided by the Board of Trustees to get the 2018-19 Fiscal Year Budget to or close to a balanced budget."
Enrolment for Grades 1-12 decreased by 84.5 FTE from the previous school year, while average teacher cost increased only slightly.
In the financial forecast report, Boser notes enrolment will continue to decline by an average of .19 percent over the next five years which will result in lower revenues in all departments and will likely also result in reduced staffing for instruction.
In addition to the added programs, PRSD has included two main focuses for the coming years, ‘Literacy’ and ‘Deeper Learning’, both of which are reflected in the budget report.
"These are the two drivers of our next budget," said Boser, noting that resources are being put in place to move forward with these goals and will be reflected in the budgets over the next three years.
Maintenance, transportation, and administrative services will also be reduced if provincial funding rates are not adjusted to offset any increases in the cost of services, utilities, supplies, and labour.
Prior to the budget meeting, trustees met with undisclosed “chartered professional accountants” from Lethbridge to discuss their current state of finances. PRRSD’s Candice Hintz, assistant secretary treasurer provided trustees with an overview of the school division’s statement of financial position.
Boser said their current financial statements show movement in the right direction.
"We have a clean audit report again this year," he said.
Capital projects at Schuler School and Eagle Butte High School influenced the numbers on the income side of things with the cash and cash equivalents decreasing due to these projects, but increasing on the Accounts Receivable line with Schuler School at just over $33,000 and EBHS just shy of $983,000.
Modernizations at Senator Gershaw School and Bow Island Elementary, as well as the new Schuler School has increased the net book value of PRSD buildings, and will continue to increase with the completion of the EBHS modernization. Still, the net book value for buildings within the division remains lower than all school divisions and school divisions of comparable size, according to the financial statement.
Revenues and expenses came in under what was indicated in the division's spring budget. Revenues by program for 2017-18 were broken down in the financial statement, with instruction accounting for 73.25 percent, POM (Plant operations and maintenance) at 11.91 percent, transportation at 10.16 percent, and external services and administration accounting for the remaining revenue.
The break-down was similar on the expense side with Instruction accounting for 72.17 percent, POM at 12.06 percent, and transportation at 11.14 percent.
The overall deficit on the actual budget compared to the projected budget that was approved in June, 2017 was $495,890 less than budget.
At the time of the preliminary budget, it was unknown what changes to Alberta Education fee structure would look like. As a result, fees came in at more than $220,000 over budget. Accumulated surplus came in at $7.4 million, with tangible capital assets accounting for approximately half of the total.
It was also noted that the fall budget is a more accurate account as it reflects the actual enrolment numbers for the school year, whereas the spring budget estimates the enrolment numbers for the upcoming school year.