During Northern Lights Public School’s recent meeting Secretary-Treasurer Paula Elock presented the Board with information on changes to funding made in the provincial budget.
The Alberta budget featured the following changes:
- 1% increase to base grants for students
- 1% increase to operations and maintenance
- 4.6% increase for transportation
Despite the increase, no extra funding was given to NLSP. The funding will be the same as it was in 2021-2022.
Elock gave an explanation saying the operations and maintenance funding is based on the utilization rates of each school. Since the enrolments have decreased so have the utilization rates, meaning there is no difference in funding in that area.
The other changes to the provincial funding for school divisions include:
- distance education funding for non-primary schools
- a grant for start up costs for division’s opening new schools
- funding for a First Nation Framework Agreement
- the addition of a collegiate policy framework.
Superintendent Rick Cusson explained that while some information has been shared about the collegiate policy framework, all of the requirements and details have not been released yet.
The program looks to allow divisions to establish programs in high schools that focus on career pathways and lead directly into post-secondary.
“Without seeing all of the details, it is difficult to determine whether the program will be feasible or sustainable for smaller communities.”
In total NLPS is getting just over $68 million in funding from the provincial government. This includes $4.8 million to soften the impact the pandemic had on enrolment which is not guaranteed after 2022-2023. Also included is a $1.18 million clawback from the government due to the division’s enrolment projections being higher than actual enrolments.
Changes were also made to how school board reserves are handled.
A maximum amount has been placed on each school board’s operating reserves after August 2023.
In NLPS’s case, this means the Board can not have more than 3.42% of operating expenditures from the prior year, or else it will be returned to the government.
Elock notes the division has budgeted this school year so reserves will sit close to 2% which is well under the 3.42% cap.
One struggle both Elock and Cusson expressed is the fact expenses have been on the rise but funding has stayed still. The worry is how does NLPS maintain the level of service the division is currently providing without extra funding.
Another big challenge comes in the form of cash flow. As the division waits for revenues to be received there will be pay expenses that need attention.
Currently, the division has a line of credit that assists with that, but the amount available is based in part on the division’s reserves and will likely decrease as reserves decrease.