Lack of transparency clouds CBE budget

The 2011-12 Calgary Board of Education budget creates more questions than answers.

Parents who want to understand why 331 positions have been cut from the CBE, and transportation fees have been increased dramatically, won’t get any clarity from reading the 2011-12 CBE budget.

The Association for Responsive Trusteeship in Calgary Schools says the budget document, posted online Monday, deals in such generalities that it is challenging to determine how student learning will be impacted by the proposed budget cuts.

Administration and trustees got an extra $3.6 million, or a nine per cent increase. There will be many parents in the city asking why, when so many teachers are being cut and transportation fees are increasing so much, does administration get more.

ARTICS concerns about the budget include;

  • Significant, unexplained increases. On page 19, “Corporate Responsibilities” (not seen in the 2010-11 budget) is attached to each service unit, including administration. Three of these line items received budget increases of 57%, 26.5% and 10.6% to total more than $7 million. Are these Ed Centre expense allocations?
  • No year-over-year numbers or base numbers are provided for expenses and revenues changes on pages 12 and 20, making it impossible to understand the implications of these changes.
  • The CBE projects shortfalls of $33 million and $85 million in the next two years. This approach continues the CBE tactic of demanding more money from the province. There are no basic projections or assumptions provided. This indicates that the CBE is not addressing its systemic financial issues.
  • Provincial funding for AISI was cut by $6.9 million, but the reduction to the Area Office budget (which includes AISI) was only cut by $4.9 million. Is the CBE keeping AISI Learning Leaders at the expense of classroom Teachers?
  • It is impossible to tell if cost-recovery items are in fact, recovering costs. Two examples would be Chinook Adult Learning (included under Human Resources) and New Education Centre Parking, where incremental revenue is noted, but not the accompanying expense.
  • There will be 164 people working in Area Offices next year. If this includes approximately 65 AISI learning leaders, it still leaves almost 20 staff at each of five area offices. Who are these people and what do they do? Can it be more important than teaching children?
  • The office of the Trustees is listed as having two employees. ARTICS notes at least four people working directly for the trustees, (receptionist, secretary, admin assistant, communications specialist) not counting the corporate secretary and the corporate recording secretary. Salaries and benefits for trustees total less than $500,000 of the increased $1.791 million budget. Elected officials should have to account for every dime spent on their behalf.
  • Where are the costs of the new Education Centre? ARTICS notes three, maybe five line items on page 20: Increase in Operating Costs for the new Education Centre – $1.375 million; lease interest expense – $3.670; and Safran Op costs are $353,000, for a total INCREASE of $5.3 million, added to a cost of $6.5 million for last year. What are “Interest expense increase on retrofit lease” ($933,000) and the “Interest Expense Increase on Performance Contracts” ($252,000)? Are they also related to the Education Centre?
  • As a positive first the budget starts to outline the expenses included in “Administration” which must be under 4 per cent of the total budget according to Alberta Education. Chair Cochrane said the lease cost for the new Education Centre would be included in “Administration.” If you consider last year’s number of admin staff (see ARTICS blog) and the total budgeted in each area, there isn’t room for an extra $5 million in lease costs. So, is the CBE going over the 4 per cent rule or hiding the true Ed Centre costs?

This budget will be presented to Trustees at the Public Board Meeting on Tuesday, where they will be able to ask questions of administration. ARTICS will continue to provide a videotaped account of the meeting.

ARTICS encourages parents and interested Calgarians to read through the budget and provide feedback to their trustee in advance of tomorrows meeting. Trustees are expected to pass a budget at their meeting on June 28.

4 thoughts on “Lack of transparency clouds CBE budget

  1. Great post Laura. Your comments on the Area Offices are of interest. I was told by an Area Office that they don’t deal with parents, that is a Principals job. So, just what precisely goes on in the Area Offices that is not duplication at the the Ed Centre?

  2. Area Offices house(d) services such a speech, SHP, and other pertinent services that are required for each area. Area offices are generally located in schools that would probably be closed but having the Area office there, helps keep the community school open. There are no admin costs. Each service answered their own phones. Everybody may have worked in tight quarters, but for the most part, most of the staff was never in the office long. They are out servicing the children.

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