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Classroom cuts a reality in CBE's $1.4B budget
CALGARY -- A $1.4 billion budget has been approved for the Calgary Board of Education for the next school year, roughly a week after the province's education minister threatened to fire trustees for what she called fiscal mismanagement.
After a week of deliberations, the CBE says the budget for the coming school year will support 128,000 students in around 250 schools; however it does include cuts to classroom resources, new fees for parents and increased costs for bus services.
Despite an additional $20.6 million from the province, administration has said they are dealing with a funding gap that doesn’t cover all their needs, including the cost of 3,000 students entering the system in the fall and the opening of three new schools.
The budget includes a two per cent reduction to school budget allocations, a 10 per cent cut to administration costs and increased fees for students who take the bus.
The board says a new funding framework from the provincial government means fewer grants for school boards and as a result will be increasing supply fees for students. It’s expected to cost a student in kindergarten $20 and students from Grade 1 through Grade 9 $40 per year.
CBE board chair Marilyn Dennis says despite the challenges, the board continues to put students first.
“There will be changes to some of our programs and services, but we will continue to strive for the best outcomes for our students," she said.
By law, the budget must be balanced and it will now be submitted to Alberta Education for the May 31 deadline.
The approved budget follows an independent auditor’s report last week on the board’s finances and scathing words from Education Minister Adrianna LaGrange, who issued a ministerial order to trustees following the release of the report and said a failure to follow it would result in their being fired later this year.
In a statement, a ministry of education spokesperson said it would be inappropriate to comment as the board has not officially submitted the budget.
"It is the government’s expectation that the CBE completes the 19 recommendations that have been issued to them by Minister LaGrange, including the one around short and long-term fiscal jeopardy and financial risk management," it read.
Pandemic Impact on Budget
The CBE acknowledges the pandemic may still have an impact on the approved budget because it assumes students are returning to school in the fall.
The CBE says it continues to develop fall re-entry plans based on three scenarios laid out by the government:
Students returning to school under normal operations
Students returning to school but with health restrictions in place
Students doing online learning
The board says should the latter two options take place, changes would be required and the CBE will adjust accordingly.