Better savings lead to smaller deficit

Some good news came over the summer for Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS).

Some good news came over the summer for Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS).

Trustees received an update on the outcome of their finances from the 2015-2016 school year at their regular meeting Sept. 15, which showed a huge cut in the projected deficit outlined earlier this year.

A mild winter combined with lower than expected fuel prices and some other efficiencies saw WCPS spend about $1.3 million less, meaning the deficit would be slashed nearly in half. That also translated into administration requesting trustees to approve spending some of those savings on needs for the coming school year.

“These unanticipated savings allowed us to make some spending requests that were necessary to provide for students and address some priorities,” said superintendent Jayson Lovell.

Those requests, which were approved by trustees, included $304,000 for four teachers at schools where enrolments were higher than expected and necessary to lower class sizes; $414,000 for 10 full-time equivalent educational assistants; $58,000 for added educational assistant time for the Bright Futures Play Academy due to exceptional response to the new program; $35,000 to provide four schools with more social work full-time equivalent time to restore support levels due to identified needs and caseloads; and, $54,000 to pay for the three-year contract with a B.C.-based company that will assist WCPS with community engagement.

Lovell added a number of other requests were made by department heads and principals for items such as additional resources, furniture and equipment. However, he stated those were left off the table until the next meeting on Oct. 6, so trustees can consider the final budget figures along with the division’s final enrolment count in order to determine how much money will be available.

“Trustees also spoke of continuing to maintain the division’s operational reserves at its current $2 million, and having spent $866,000 of those unanticipated savings, they wanted to wait and see the full financial picture prior to making any more decisions,” he stated.

As of Sept. 9, WCPS has seen an overall reduction in their student numbers down about 80 from its projected attendance figures. Originally, WCPS had thought overall enrolment would be close to 7,520 students.

While some schools have seen an increase, the reductions have certainly been dramatic with Lovell explaining the Blackfalds area has been where the biggest drop was noticed.

“It’s not that the students are in another school, our information is that they have simply moved out of the area,” he said.

“It’s likely a reflection of the current state of the economy with families moving or migrating to where the jobs are.”