Sherwood Park, AB. — Elk Island Public Schools (EIPS) has undertaken a full review of its funding allocations for the 2019-20 school year. Despite prudent planning based on expected reductions, the Division is projecting a $5.3-million shortfall for the current school year.
While EIPS did its due diligence in light of the current economic climate and reduced its planned 2019-20 expenditures before the release of the provincial budget, it didn’t anticipate the elimination of two important allocations—class-size reduction funding and the School Fee Reduction Grant. Collectively, the cuts total more than $9 million. Even with the province’s one-time transition grant and enrolment growth funding provided by Alberta Education—totalling $4.8 million—the loss in revenue has a significant impact on the Division.
The drop in funding is compounded by a new insurance hike from EIPS’ insurer Alberta School Boards Insurance Exchange (ASBIE). Recently, the organization notified the Division its insurance rate is increasing by approximately $1.5 million. The reason: a hardening Alberta market and a higher volume of property losses among subscribers because of weather-related claims such as fires and floods. The $1.5 million increase is unbudgeted and not funded by the province.
“As it turns out, we weren’t able to anticipate the full scope of the changes. That said, the Board has carefully examined our costs to find areas where we can further reduce expenditures and take a measured approach regarding the best use of existing resources,” says Trina Boymook, the Board Chair of EIPS. “While we’re confident we can minimize impacts in the classroom during the current school year, the significant drop in funding means going forward, we have to re-examine the ways we deliver programming and services to students.”
Superintendent Mark Liguori also notes a change in education grants mid-year poses challenges for all school divisions. “Decisions about what programming to offer, how many teachers and educational assistants to hire, and our educational priorities for the year were made through a series of budget assumptions in the spring,” he says. “While we’re still able to fulfill our commitments during the 2019-20 school year, education funding is frozen at $8.2 billion provincewide for the next several years. With increased enrolment and evolving student needs, the Division will have difficult choices to make for subsequent budgets.”
Because EIPS already made several critical assumptions about gaps in funding, the Division was in a more stable position to absorb the shortfall. EIPS will reallocate resources within the existing budget on a one-time basis, including money from its unallocated reserves—which the Board sets aside annually as a failsafe against unforeseen financial situations. The Board of Trustees expects to finalize its 2019-20 budget in late November and will begin work on its spring 2020 budget.
Elk Island Public Schools is one of Alberta’s largest school divisions, serving approximately 17,400 students in 43 schools. We are proud to be an integral part of our communities, including Sherwood Park, Fort Saskatchewan, Vegreville, Strathcona and Lamont counties and the western portion of the County of Minburn.
For more information contact:
Laura McNabb, Director, Communication Services, EIPS 780-417-8204 cell 780-405-4902