Superintendent of Schools – Spring is budget season for most school jurisdictions. By the time we are into March, most of our planning efforts are focused on the following school year. You might be thinking spending $250-$275 million would be fun and easy, but you would be surprised. There is never enough money to do everything you want to, so it comes down to tough choices. When building a budget, it is important to remember that we are spending taxpayers’ money and our focus needs to be on students. Other guiding documents are the Four Year Plan, Guide to Education, Board budget priorities, collective agreements/terms of employment, ongoing contracts and others.
In RVS we have a distributed budget development model. There are many groups and individuals that are part of the budget development process. The main budget process ends with me (as Superintendent) bringing forward a budget recommendation to our Board of Trustees. It is the Board’s responsibility to pass the final budget. In the fall, the Board will also pass a revised budget once we know how many actual students we have at the end of September.
The majority of the money goes out to schools. In the end, we will spend over $200 million on staff in RVS. How do we allocate money out to schools? A committee of Education Centre staff and school principals work on an allocation formula. Our Schools department reviews enrolment projections and builds a school configuration for every K-8/9 school based on our class size guidelines. That configuration tells us how many teachers we need to allocate and fund for each K-8/9 school. Additionally, at elementary, we allocate support for a number of areas including: learning support, inclusive education supports, Child Development Advisor (CDA) time, admin time, tech support time, supply money, and about another dozen items. Our high schools are given a per student allocation along with a few targeted allocations (e.g. inclusive education supports, instructional resource fee replacement, supervision, ESL). Principals build their budget, in consultation with School Council, based on the funds generated through enrolments and specific allocations. School budgets vary mostly based on the student population of the school with our smallest schools working with about $1.6 million and our largest with about $6.2 million. I anticipate school-based budgets will total over $187 million in 2018/19.
On top of school budgets, there will be approximately $70 million allocated to staff leaves, centralized learning supports, technology, preschool intervention programs, health and safety, HR, central administration, finance, maintenance, caretaking, student transportation, grounds, trustees, communications, and other centralized functions supporting schools and students. These centralized budgets are developed by each department/branch and are brought to the senior executive table for review. We review every line request. We need to tie our centralized expenditures to the Four Year Plan and Board’s budget priorities, while addressing the operational needs of the division along with centralized supports for our schools and staff.
We have amazing people on our finance team that help schools and departments through this process. In the end, we can never afford everything we would like to do and support. We make sure our focus is on students and how we can allocate the money to support their learning. We have about a month before the Board ultimately decides on the budget.