Calgary Board of Education lays out plans to deal with $32M funding gap

The exterior of the Calgary Board of Education building in downtown Calgary.
The exterior of the Calgary Board of Education building in downtown Calgary. Tomasia DaSilva/Global News

The Calgary Board of Education has laid out its plan to deal with the $32-million budget cut handed down to it by the provincial government.

Six budget recommendations were presented at a board of trustees meeting Thursday night, and all six take effect before the end of the 2019-2020 school year.

While many of the recommendations involve schools cutting costs, parents will also be on the hook.

The CBE says it needs to make up $8 million in transportation funding and will do so by raising fees.

READ MORE: CBE announces $32M funding shortfall in wake of 2019 Alberta budget

At the meeting, Brad Grundy – the CBE’s chief financial officer – hinted at just how high that increase could go.

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“I’ll let you do the math,” Grundy said.

“The fee replacement grant for transportation was about $8 million… and there are about 23,000 students that use the yellow bus for transportation.”

That means parents could pay around $300 more per child to make up the gap.

Five other recommendations were aimed at reducing costs for both schools and CBE offices. These recommendations were outlined in a budget report to CBE trustees.

One strategy is to take CBE office staff who are certified teachers and place them in schools.

The CBE says these staff are currently “providing important educational support services centrally” and that their deployment would “reduce or eliminate a number of supporting programs and services.”

Funds directly allocated to schools will be cut by $22 million, mostly through revising operating budgets and eliminating some temporary positions.

The reports also looks to cut $3 million from service units, such as IT support or custodians.

The CBE aims to cut the capital budget by $5 million. This would mean pushing back technology upgrades and non-essential renovations.

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To close the rest of the funding gap, the CBE plans to use $9 million in reserves. This is on top of the $5 million in reserves that was already approved for use in 2019-20.

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Trustee Marilyn Dennis said she’s concerned with how these cuts will impact students.

“Just as much as trustees and the system are anxious to see what will transpire, parents are in the same boat,” Dennis said. “What happens in their kids’ schools matters to them and [they] would like some answers sooner rather than later.”

Grundy said these budget cut recommendations could save some teachers from being laid off, but that there will still be job losses.

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“We’re going to try and mitigate… but given the magnitude, there will be teachers in the system who won’t be there in January,” Grundy said.

All of the recommendations were shared with principles before Thursday’s meeting, and each school will know exactly how much they’ll need to cut by Nov. 18.

Final decisions on which teachers, support staff and services will be impacted should be known by mid-December.