Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Budget time, where the rubber hits the road

The next five weeks are when it all happens.
The provincial budget has been passed, the regulations on the grants for student needs, education capital funding and "education priorities: other" or EPO funding needed for school boards to pass their 2011-12 budgets have been passed.
Now is the time when boards of trustees sit with the information given to them by their director of education and the staff members who work under that person and decide what the budgets are going to look like.
Here's what's known--
The commitments made at provincial discussion tables for wages and benefits are funded. Which, in this year, means all teachers are getting 3%, as are most other employee groups whose unions participated in the last round of negotiations.
Little to no money was provided for wage and benefits for any other employee groups that aren't included in that last paragraph.
The two-year freeze on computer equipment has been extended by a year.
Full-day kindergarten funding, based on average daily enrolment counts and projections, is fully funded through the GSN and FDK envelopes for the 26:1 student: teacher and matching education assistant ratio. But since kids don't come in bundles of 26, school boards are going to have decisions to make in those schools where they cannot shuffle the deck to get appropriate JK/SK classes and must consider JK/SK/Grade 1 splits.
All of the capital projects approved for FDK and other priority programs are funded.
For more than a few boards, 2011-12 is the first year their high school enrolments are dropping. Which means a lot of boards across the province will be issuing notices this spring and a lot of teachers will be keeping their fingers crossed to see how many of their colleagues retire this summer or take leaves.
Transportation, maintenance and utility costs have risen by a percentage factor.
Special education funding remains a crapshoot, particularly in the sections of the funding tied to specialized equipment and services.
Will there be cuts that extend beyond what would be expected? Part of that is up to trustees. As late as 10 days ago boards had not yet been able to access the final version of the ministry software / website where they plug in their particulars to generate their budgets.
However the task begins. While typing this, one alert came across for a board looking at its budget. Not but a few paragraphs, but a sign of what lies ahead.