District pleased with government's continued support for education

Lethbridge School District No. 51 is pleased with the Government of Alberta’s continued support for education, as outlined in yesterday’s Budget 2017 announcement.

Of particular interest to the District is the government’s commitment to provide funding for enrollment growth throughout the province.

“We appreciate the government providing predictable, sustainable funding, critical to Lethbridge School District No. 51 in terms of our projected enrollment growth,” said Superintendent Cheryl Gilmore. “We’re very pleased with the fact it is a status-quo budget in that regard, especially given the economic situation the province is currently facing.”

The District projects a 2.64-per-cent increase to enrollment for the 2017/2018 school year, which would amount to just over 260 new students.

Gilmore added the District is also encouraged with the fact the government is providing a boost to Infrastructure Maintenance and Renewal funding, which will see an additional $300,000 for the District. That money will help boost efforts to keep up with repairs to schools to address mechanical issues and projects such as roofing replacements.

The District will also receive funds based on the government’s previous announcement of Bill 1: An Act to reduce school fees, despite the fact the District had been proactive in eliminating those fees. The District eliminated school fees for elementary students in 2011, and eliminated fees for middle and high school student prior to the current school year.

“We are pleased that the government has recognized the pressure school fees put on families throughout the province by implementing the school and transportation fees reduction grant,” said Gilmore.

Lethbridge School District eliminated basic elementary fees in 2011, and secondary fees this current school year. The provincial budget allocation only recognizes the school fees reported in the 2015/16 audited financial statement, so reimbursement for Lethbridge School District covers the $252,000 that was cut in secondary basic fees, but does not recognize the elementary fees that were eliminated previously. 

Gilmore added the District is also encouraged the government is examining a dual-credit strategy, which should be forthcoming this spring, particularly in light of the success Lethbridge Collegiate Institute has experienced with its partnership with the University of Lethbridge.

As the numbers continue to be finalized for the District’s 2017/2018 budget, Gilmore added the District will have a number of budgetary challenges to deal with moving forward.

“The District still faces budget pressure related to plant-operations funding, as there was not an increase in the grant rates this time around based on the per-student formula,” said Gilmore, who added costs surrounding utilities for the District’s new elementary school and middle school, currently under construction, and the $120,000 extra needed for the carbon tax, will pose challenges.

Gilmore also addressed multiple media reports, which stated the budget is set to include $2 million in funding for design work for a new southside elementary school for the District.

“We have not received official notification of the $2 million, but we will certainly be pleased if it is indeed part of next week’s capital announcement,” she said.