Palliser approves 2018-2019 budget

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Corporate News

Palliser Regional Schools has approved a balanced budget for the 2018-19 school year while keeping direct impact on the classroom to a minimum.

The operating budget of $96.3 million was approved at the regular Board of Trustees meeting May 15. The budget is based on an enrolment of 7,624 students in Grades 1-12 and early childhood services enrolment of 670, up about 60 students in total from 2017-18.

The Board and Palliser’s senior administration went into budget deliberation with the goal of making any cuts as far from the classroom as possible. They were able to find efficiencies in centralized services and board administration and cut spending in that area by more than $475,000 from this year.

The province caps spending on administration to 3.6 per cent of a school division’s total budget.  Those costs within Palliser have been reduced to 3.27 per cent of the budget with several positions lost through attrition.

Palliser was facing a $450,000 deficit prior to the recent announcement of Classroom Improvement Funds. Despite considerable efforts to find efficiencies elsewhere, Palliser was looking at reducing staffing by six, full-time equivalent teaching positions and 11 support positions across the division for 2018-19. It now appears Palliser may be able to restore about half of those positions, with those decisions made through further input from school administrators.

Those school-level and division-level budget discussions were made with greater input this year from, and consultation with, Palliser staff at both Central Office and each school. The Board wants to acknowledge the ownership our stakeholders took in the 2018-19 budget, and in particular the input provided by school administrators and staff as Palliser strives to provide more transparency and autonomy in such decisions.

Palliser senior administration was able to restructure finances going into budget discussions to allow for more sustainable funding for critical assets like school buses and computers in the coming years.

Through the utilization of capital reserves, Palliser will purchase six new buses in 2018-19 and has established a plan to allow for more regular replacement of vehicles in an aging fleet.

The Board has also approved an evergreen plan to keep computer technology more current. That will allow for the acquisition of 1,400 new Chromebook laptops for students for this coming school year. Plans call for a ratio of two students per device within four years’ time.

The provincial government requires school divisions to submit their budget by May 31, 2018. Palliser Regional School’s budget will be posted on the division website prior to that deadline.