Red Deer Public Schools passes ‘most challenging budget’

With many trustees calling it one of the most challenging budgets faced by the division, the Red Deer Public Schools Board of Trustees approved a $125.8 million budget, which includes a $3 million deficit that will be covered by operating reserves.

The challenging and difficult decisions that needed to be made were due in part to the new education funding model announced in March by the provincial government. The net impact of the provincial budget cuts to Red Deer Public are estimated as a $1.7 million reduction in funding. Additional cuts in provincial funding will come over the next two years totalling $3 million.

The approved budget includes:

  • Using $3 million in operating reserves
  • Reduced allocations to schools of $140 per student totalling $1.4 million
  • No increase to school fees recognizing the challenging economic times facing many families
  • Central Services cost reductions of $480,000 through staffing cuts
  • Contingency allocation of $200,000

“The complexity of the new funding model and the associated cuts that come with it made this a long and difficult budget process,” said Board Chair Nicole Buchanan.

“While the province says it is maintaining overall education funding, individual divisions across the province have less money to work with. This will be even more challenging given the uncertainties as we enter a very unpredictable school year. Our budget process has been thorough and focused on ensuring as many dollars as possible stay in the classroom. Our trustees, as well as our Audit Committee, are confident that we are being prudent in making the very best decisions to meet the needs of students.”

The budget document noted the uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the current state of the provincial economy, increased insurance costs, the outcomes of collective agreements and a cap on operating reserves being implemented in the 2022-23 school year as risk factors that could impact the budget.

The 2020/2021 budget was unanimously approved by the board of trustees at its virtual meeting on May 28.