Rising material and supply costs, inflationary pressures related to utilities and insurance, and an increased cost for employee benefits have made for a tough 2023-2024 budget for Red Deer Public Schools. 

The Board of Trustees approved its 2023-2024 budget for Red Deer Public Schools at last week’s Board meeting, which totals $130 million. With a current projected deficit of $1 million, the state of the Division’s reserves will be about $3.8 million as of Aug. 31, 2023 year end. 

Projected student enrolment is also similar for the 2023-2024 school year at about 10,570 FTE students. 

“The Board of Trustees has approved a budget which will report a deficit of approximately $1 million,” said Board Chair Nicole Buchanan. “This budget reflects the Board's priority to invest in mental health initiatives for all students, as well as to put every available resource into the classroom. We believe the best place to spend our money is on excellence in teaching and learning.” 

As material and supply costs continue to rise, ensuring ongoing maintenance and improvements are made to schools has become a draw on the Division’s budget. This could include projects from installing a drinking water fountain to replacing a roof, addressing classroom and washroom upgrades, among others. The Division will receive $1.4 million in Infrastructure Maintenance and Renewal Funding, and $712,000 in Capital Maintenance and Renewal Funding, which are both less than last year. 

Another challenge includes a continued increase in rate costs for ASEBP, CPP and EI benefits. These benefit increases combined will total about $1,045 per employee. “The rise in costs for the Division is because our employees are accessing their benefits, which is a good thing and the reason those benefits are in place,” said Buchanan. “However, that results in increased costs to Red Deer Public Schools. We appreciate the funding that we receive from the provincial government and Alberta Education, but we still face funding challenges.” 

As part of the budget, Red Deer Public will maintain staffing levels, implement Student Support Rooms in most elementary, K - 8 and middle schools, and implement a comprehensive bullying prevention program. 

Identified risk factors for the approved budget includes an uncertainty of what next year’s student enrolment may be due to the current status of the provincial economy; Alberta recently being designated as a high-risk province due to natural disasters causing insurance rates to increase exponentially; and school and transportation fees no longer being funded. 

The Board approved its 2023-2024 budget on May 10, and will submit it to Alberta Education on May 31.