BARRHEAD/WESTLOCK — The number of parents choosing to pay school fees online increased considerably throughout the Pembina Hills School Division in the 2022-2023 school year, with nearly $1 million in online payments being collected by schools in Westlock, Barrhead and surrounding communities.
That was one of the highlights of the 2022-2023 internal audit assurance report presented to Pembina Hills trustees at their Sept. 20 meeting by assistant secretary-treasurer Veronica Lindquist.
Lindquist said one of her job duties is to conduct internal audits, which help ensure the division’s financial assets are adequately safeguarded, revenue and expenses are properly recorded, the division is compliant with various laws and regulations, and there is efficiency and effectiveness in the internal controls at work in both schools and individual departments.
They also help ensure accountability for publicly raised funds, assist schools with business functions, improve internal controls and protect the board and staff.
“Last year, 11 internal audits were conducted, and everything was found to be in good order,” she said.
One of the areas covered by internal audits are school-generated funds, which refer to fundraising dollars collected by schools and fees for things like field trips, band programs, extracurricular sports, and yearbooks.
Lindquist said parents receive a link to an online software known as RYCOR when they log into their PowerSchool account and can use that platform to pay their school fees.
“Online payments protect the staff and the students so there’s no money left in a desk drawer or somebody’s pocket or somewhere else,” Lindquist said.
In 2022-2023, a total of $948,000 in school fees was collected by the division’s community schools, though Lindquist noted that amount increased to more than $1 million when transportation fees were factored in.
“That’s a lot of money that comes through there,” she said.
In 2022-2023, the number of parents paying their school fees online ranged from a low of 22 per cent at Eleanor Hall School in Clyde to a high of 57 per cent at Westlock Elementary School, which also saw the biggest increase from 2021-2022.
Notably, the number of parents making online payments was higher than the previous year at every single school except Busby School, where the percentage fell from about 39 per cent to 25 per cent, and Neerlandia Public Christian School, where the percentage remained the same.
Lindquist attributed the decrease at Busby School to new office administrative support. “So hopefully, through learning, it can go up this year,” she said.
Vice chair Sherry Allen commented on the dramatic increase in parents using online payment methods, acknowledging that it probably made things easier to manage for division staff.
She also thanked Lindquist for the work that she and her team continue to do on behalf of the division.