Skip to content

NLSD ask for public's help in trimming $1.7 million from budget

The Northern Lights School Division is hosting a series of public consultations as they seek the help of parents, students, and community members to help determine which school programs should be kept in the face of looming budget cuts.

The Northern Lights School Division is hosting a series of public consultations as they seek the help of parents, students, and community members to help determine which school programs should be kept in the face of looming budget cuts.

“Our big focus here is community input,” said NLSD trustee Danny Smaiel, adding that with a nearly $2 million shortfall, the budget will need to be trimmed, and the consultations will be a two-way conversation.

“We hope to inform people of the current budgetary constraints,” he said.

Those constraints come as a result of the 2011 provincial budget, which provided a blend of cuts and bonuses to the education budget that on the surface look good, but really put school boards in a difficult position, said Smaiel.

While there was a 4.4 per cent increase to base funding, there was also a 50 per cent cut to the Alberta Initiative for School Improvement program, which funds things like fine arts classes and the Real 8 experiential outdoor education program. Funding for some class size reduction initiatives were also cut.

While Smaiel said the Real 8 program was on the chopping block, it’s fate isn’t certain, with the school board trustee calling it “a really special program,” but also an endangered one.

“That’s one we’d love to preserve,” he said, adding it comes down to making the necessary cuts without having an effect on the classroom.

“We want to minimize the impact on children,” he said, explaining the school board also doesn’t want to eliminate teaching positions. Instead, they will look to save money in other ways.

The problem with that, said Smaiel, is that 90 per cent of the division’s $70 million budget goes towards salaries.

“There’s not a lot of wiggle room when it comes to budgets,” he said.

The public consultation isn’t all about cuts, though. NLSD officials want to also hear about what parents like in schools.

“We also want to hear about successes,” he said.

The Lac La Biche public consultation session will be on Apr 27 at Dr.. Swift Middle School at 7 p.m.