Grande Prairie, AB – Expectations that government would maintain existing grant rates and fund enrolment growth were dashed after the province's release of Budget 2019 on October 24. Since then, the Board of Peace Wapiti Public School Division (PWPSD) has taken time to review the impact, and today shared a report during their first meeting since the announcement on what the division's $2 million grant reduction fallout will mean.
"In PWPSD's deficit spring budget, we anticipated the elimination of the $730,000 Classroom Improvement Fund. However, the grant reduction left us looking for an additional $1,270,000," says Superintendent Bob Stewart.
Further compounding the $373,000 deficit approved in the spring budget is the unexpected increase in insurance premiums, costing PWPSD an additional $1,040,000 over last year.
The combined tally of the spring deficit, grant reductions, and increased insurance premiums meant the Board would be facing a deficit of approximately $2.7 million. However, further reductions to expenditures in areas that will not impact classrooms lowered the deficit to $1.7 million – to be funded by operating reserves.
Going forward, Mr. Stewart says senior administration will need to work with the Board and school principals to examine all areas before presenting a 2020-2021 budget to the PWPSD Board next spring.
The 2019 provincial budget maintains school nutrition program funding, along with continued commitments to improve outcomes for Indigenous students and to invest in new schools and existing school infrastructure.
On November 4, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange announced 25 new school projects, including design funding for the replacement Harry Balfour School. The Minister also said that parents no longer have to fundraise for school playgrounds, as they will be included in funding for any new school announcements.
In their 2020-2023 PWPSD Three-Year Capital Plan, the PWPSD Board sought government approval for three new schools – replacements for Harry Balfour School and Peace Wapiti Academy to address enrolment growth and reduce ride times for students from rural feeder schools, and a K-8 school in Clairmont Heights to address enrolment growth in the area. Modernization of Bonanza School is also included in the plan.
Photo: Positive news from Budget 2019: A replacement Harry Balfour School was among the government's announcement of new school projects on November 4.