Budget talks extended at school board

Wolf Creek Public Schools briefs - trustees move forward on budget issues as well as begin search for new leadership

Deliberating on how to conserve cash in light of a big deficit will take longer than anticipated at the Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS) division.

Trustees began talks on the 2016-17 budget during last week’s regular school board meeting on Thursday, April 21, but weren’t able to come to any conclusions before breaking up the meeting.

Acting superintendent Jayson Lovell explained in an interview on Friday, April 22 that the board held a very lengthy discussion on the priorities it had outlined for the budget regarding essential service levels and identifying how to meet all the needs of its students despite the challenges it faces with a $2.3 million shortfall the division is facing.

“Administration did a lot of work in preparation of this budget after an overview of the provincial budget that was released a week earlier,” stated Lovell.

However, in spite of all the work and talks, the board decided to leave the discussion to a special meeting this week where it’s expected the board will have to make some hard choices, since provincial funding levels will remain unchanged for school divisions for next school year.

Travel update

Lovell was asked to provide trustees with an update regarding the status of international trips by students following more terrorist attacks in Europe in the last two months.

“In light of those events, trustees wanted the most recent advice from our insurer and they are maintaining the status quo,” he said.

That leaves the decision on whether trips should go ahead to the travelling groups and parents, as the board determined back in January to not interfere whether travel should be cancelled or not.

“We are just being cautious and thorough, plus heightening our due diligence on the issue,” he said.

Lovell added they are keeping an eye on the Foreign Affairs Canada website for further evaluation of the risks and will reflect that back to students, parents and staff that are organizing those trips in order to make the best decision for them.

Carbon tax

Some discussion was held by trustees on the effect of the provincial government imposing the carbon tax on fuel beginning in 2017.

Lovell explained the issue will be talked about again during the budget discussion, but it was brought the board’s attention since no one will be exempt from the levy.

“The cost implications to the division are significant and the board decided to engage in a lobby effort to appeal to the government for some sort of rebate or subsidy.

“School boards only receive public funding, so to pay the levy means just giving back money to government, which the board feels is not the most appropriate way to fund educating students,” he said.

“And in this way, the board felt this is how we could express those concerns to the education minister and the government.”

Search begins

The hunt has started for the new leader of WCPS as trustees decided to employ their own representative group the Alberta School Boards Association to conduct the search for their new superintendent.

With Larry Jacobs announcing his retirement earlier this month, the board had to come up with a hiring process for the new superintendent. WCPS secretary-treasurer Joe Henderson presented trustees with a number of options, which the board decided to go with the ASBA.

It’s anticipated the new superintendent will be hired in time to start work come the new school year.