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GYPSD approved 2020-21 budget of $63M

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

Grande Yellowhead Public School Division (GYPSD) approved its budget for the 2020-2021 school year at $63M.

The board of trustees for the division approved the budget at their public board meeting on May 20. According to their news release, the division worked with principals and central office leadership to ensure schools had budgets similar to 2019-20 levels, despite a struggling economy and the impact of the COVID pandemic.

“In our (HCHS) case, thanks in part to a small projected enrollment increase and the flat budget developed by the Division, we anticipate having the same number of staff.  I’m very pleased with the result and really appreciate the foresight and commitment of our Division,” said Glen Allen, principal of Harry Collinge High School.

Approving a similar budget will limit impacts to staffing and student programming, including the decision to maintain full-day kindergarten programming for the 2020-21 school year.

The Alberta government announced an updated funding model for K to 12 education for the first time in 15 years.

According to the province, the new model simplifies the number of grants from 36 in the current framework to 15 in order to give more flexibility to school authorities on how to invest taxpayer dollars, provides funding to support specialized learning needs for groups of students who may require additional supports from school authorities, moves to a three-year weighted average methodology rather than a one-year enrolment count after the school year has started, reduces red tape, and includes a combination of funding policies, processes, actions and evidence.

The new three-year Weighted Moving Average (WMA) methodology that replaces the per-student allocation will let school authorities know how much provincial funding is available by the end of March each year, instead of September when the school year has already started.

The WMA calculation for the 2020-2021 school year is based on 20 per cent of 2018-2019 enrolments, 30 per cent of 2019-2020 enrolments and 50 per cent of projected 2020-2021 enrolments from this Spring.

The new model should minimize the need for mid-year adjustments to budgets and staffing, create alignment between the school year and the government’s fiscal year, and give boards predictability in planning and budgeting.

The province also stated that small rural schools will move to a block-funding model to ensure long-term viability and make sure they have the money to offer educational programming.

Block funding is based on enrolment, with different amounts for different student populations.

The addition of Interim Bridge Funding and the Rural Small School grant allowed GYPSD’s funding to remain flat for the 2020-2021 school year, even in the cases of changes in enrollment numbers.

In cases where school enrollments declined, the GYPSD created an Equalization Allocation to ensure that all the schools in the jurisdiction have a relatively stable budget.

GYPSD’s finance team worked across all division departments and with school principals to complete an exhaustive analysis of past budgets, current and prospective student needs, program equity, staffing requirements, and areas for efficiencies. 

GYPSD’s release stated that school jurisdictions across the province anticipate the decrease in bridge funding for 2021-2022 will necessitate many difficult decisions.

GYPSD superintendent didn’t respond to request for comment before The Voice press deadline on the budget process, key learnings with principals, or impacts of funding changes this year.