BARRHEAD — The Pembina Hills School Division is projecting a $1.151 million operating deficit in the coming school year, which will mark the third-consecutive year that the division has expected to end up in the red.
Pembina Hills trustees passed a motion at their May 24 meeting to approve the 2023-2024 operating budget, which consists of $68,104,737 in revenue and $69,256,446 in expenses.
Comparatively, budgeted revenue in 2022-2023 was estimated at $65,395,361, while budgeted expenses were at $67,895,361, which is a difference of about $2.7 million in revenue and $1.3 million in expenses from one year to the next.
It should be noted that actual financial figures for the 2022-2023 school year will not be known until the audited financial statements are approved by trustees in the coming year.
Acting secretary-treasurer Gordon Majeran said the province did increase the division’s per-student grant by six per cent, raising it from a budgeted $62.613 million in 2022-2023 to $65.810 million in 2023-2024.
However, that is being offset by a loss of $3 million in COVID mitigation and “bridge” funding, which was originally meant to help school divisions transition from one student funding model to another.
“We are estimating that we will receive an adjustment to the 2022-2023 grant by $1.2 million, which is included in the 2022-2023 estimate,” Majeran said.
In terms of other sources of revenue, the division is anticipating to generate nearly $190,000 in additional fees compared to 2022-2023, but the sale of services and products will drop by just over $1 million.
Investment income will grow from a budgeted $184,701 in 2022-2023 to $328,500 in 2023-2024, while donations and other contributions are budgeted to shoot up from $17,000 this year to $418,011 in the new year.
Early Childhood Services (ECS) instruction expenses are projected to increase from $1.467 million in 2022-2023 to $2.376 million in 2023-2024, while Grade 1-12 instruction expenses will shrink from $51.837 million this year to $50.947 million next year.
Majeran noted the budget provides for an increase of 4.0 full-time equivalent (FTE) teaching staff to be assigned to the Inclusive Education Lead Teachers initiative.
When asked why Grade 1-12 instruction expenses seemingly fell despite the addition of these 4.0 FTE positions, Majeran indicated there was an accounting change in terms of how instruction expenses are recorded.
He noted that in 2021-2022, Kindergarten-related expenses were shown as part of Grades 1-12 instruction expenses, while in 2023-2024, Early Learning and Kindergarten-related expenses are now part of ECS instruction expenses. This is also why that category rose.
In a breakdown of expenses by object, certificated salaries are expected to climb from $25.599 million in 2022-2023 to $27.242 million in 2023-2024, while certificated benefits will increase from $6.215 million last year to $6.779 million next year.
Non-certificated salaries and wages are also expected to climb from $13.329 million in 2022-2023 to $14.372 million in 2023-2024, while non-certificated benefits will go up about $500,000.
Operations and maintenance expenses will remain fairly static, but the division is expecting transportation and system administration expenses to rise by more than $500,000 and $350,000 respectively.
Also, the division is expecting to see external services increase from $168,500 in 2022-2023 to $760,000 in 2023-2024.
Pembina Hills originally budgeted for a $2.5 million deficit in 2022-2023 in a deliberate bid to draw down reserves, which stood at $13.844 million as of Aug. 31, 2022.
Majeran said that by the end of 2023-2024, the division’s estimated reserves will be at $8,837,354, a difference of just over $5 million.
Finally, in terms of enrolment projections, the division is expecting to see the Grade 1-9 enrolment drop by 73 students, while Grade 10-12 enrolment will increase by 21 students.
That represents a loss of 52 Grade 1-12 students, or a total decrease in enrolment of 1.1 per cent.
ECS enrolment is expected to remain virtually static, increasing by only one child from year to year.