CBE budget tries to address $35M shortfall with cuts, fee hikes

The Alberta K-12 Schools COVID-19 Tracker was launched by  Support Our Students Alberta.
The Alberta K-12 Schools COVID-19 Tracker was launched by Support Our Students Alberta. File photo

Public school trustees have approved the Calgary Board of Education’s (CBE) $1.4-billion budget for the upcoming school year, which includes increased fees for a number of students as well as job cuts.

The CBE is dealing with a $35-million shortfall as officials say the provincial government has funded for student growth but not inflation.

Because of rising fuel costs and the carbon tax, the board said transportation fees are rising by as much as 4.5 per cent for students who attend alternative programs. While transportation costs are covered for students attending regular classes, those who go to school for French or Spanish immersion have to pay for the cost of busing.

READ MORE: Alberta government wants CBE to avoid job cuts expected with proposed budget

Lunchroom supervision fees are going up by 3.9 per cent. The budget will also see 69 non-school-based positions cut.

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Education Minister David Eggen said Tuesday he’s happy to see the CBE avoiding cuts that would directly affect classrooms. He said funding education is a top priority for the government.

“While I’m disappointed to see some fees increase modestly, these decisions are ultimately for the local school board to make,” Eggen said in a statement to Global News.

“Our government has provided over $18 million to CBE in each of the last two years to fully fund a legislated reduction in transportation and instructional fees — and we’ll keep working to make life more affordable for families in the years ahead.”

LISTEN: CBE Trustee Trina Hurdman joins Gord Gillies to talk about the budget

Trustee Mike Bradshaw said the CBE is stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to funding.

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“I think this budget does its best to balance those cost increases while attempting to maintain class size numbers and service levels at our schools.”

Board chair Trina Hurdman said it’s important to remember school-based staff depend on non-school-based staff.

“We have IT support that’s in our schools all the time, we have our psychologists and occupational therapists, we have our custodial staff,” she said.

READ MORE: Calgary parents protest CBE bussing policy

Hurdman said she understands the financial challenges faced by the province, but said the CBE is having to dip into its reserve funds to maintain the status quo.

“This government has been committed to funding growth, which we appreciate because our system is growing from year to year, but inflationary costs are not being covered and that is forcing us, every single year, to cut back a little bit more and more.”

The province announced on May 11 an extra $13.3 million in funding to help pay for 149 full- and part-time teachers. That funding will not impact the increase in fees or job losses approved in the budget.

LISTEN: CBE Trustee Lisa Davis joins Danielle Smith in-studio