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Lethbridge School Division working through 2020-21 budget challenges

The Lethbridge School Division is facing some financial challenges as it works toward finalizing a budget for the next school year.

This week, trustees saw some preliminary numbers which show the public division is working with less money heading into the fall.

It’s pulling over $817,000 from reserves to make up for a shortfall when it comes to the instructional part of the overall budget.

Superintendent Cheryl Gilmore says the new provincial funding framework, set out by the UCP government, is not favourable for a growing school district like Lethbridge, noting there is less funding, not more.

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“For next school year we are projecting a 270 student increase, but with the weighted moving average we will only get funded for 50 of those students,” says Gilmore. “So we have an additional 220 students in the system who we’re not getting per-pupil funding for.”

The weighted moving average calculates average enrolment by assigning a larger weighting to the more recent year’s enrolment than weighting on the previous year’s enrolment. The province has said this will make it easier for school boards to predict enrolment and minimize school authorities having to adjust their revenue forecasts or staffing levels throughout the school year.

Gilmore says the rest of the projected enrolment increase in the public division will have to be absorbed into current funding.

In terms of staffing, the division’s teaching staff will face a reduction of 3.8 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions, while support staff will be reduced by 40.9 FTE. Of those support-staff reductions, educational assistants will account for 30.9 FTE, which mostly relate to the funding reductions in the Program Unit Funding (PUF) for these Kindergaten supports.

“When we take away what the district lost last year, we will need to find a couple million dollars really in the instructional portion of our budget,” stresses the Superintendent. “We’ve done our best to find efficiencies.”

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The Lethbridge School Division says maintaining reasonable class-sizes are a priority. Therefore, to minimize the reductions to teaching staff as much as possible, some one-time reserves will be used to assist in this transition.

Over 93% of funding for the Lethbridge School Division comes from the Alberta government. The rest is comprised of school fees, school-generated funds, outside grants, and one-time reserve funds.

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