FMPSD Looking at $4.5M Provincial, While FMCSD Losing $3.2M

The Fort McMurray Public School Division could be looking at a big deficit this school year due to the provincial budget.

Speaking on Fort McMurray Matters, Superintendent Doug Nicholls says cuts by the Government of Alberta could result in the district receiving around $4.5 million less in grants and funds.

The district had received around $90 million in previous years to operate across Fort McMurray.

Nicholls tells Mix News they’ll have to be smart with every dollar they use.

“With enrollment growth, which is what this community has including our friends in the Catholic District, and if budgets are held tight, that simply means there’s less money there per student.”

The FMPSD is seeing a six per cent increase in enrollment from the last school year.

Before these cuts, teachers were being asked to teach bigger class sizes.

The GoA is committing to fund enrollment growth by 2.2 per cent in their budget.

However, Nicholls isn’t sold that every new student across the district will be covered.

“An item can be in the budget but at the end of the day for a school division it’s what that pie looks like at the end of all those lines and do we have dollars for enrollment growth, do we have dollars for the programming that we have.”

The FMPSD currently has funds in their reserve to cover their cuts during the school year. Nicholls notes they could potentially use their reserve funding if the deficit continues on the same trend over the next two school years as well.

“If things do not change in terms of grants for next September, students throughout the province will be impacted in a very significant way,” he added.

Impact on FMCSD 

Photo by: Brandon Piper//Harvard Broadcasting

As for the Fort McMurray Catholic School District, they will have to tighten their belt financially.

According to the budget, the FMCSD will experience a deficit of $3.2 million.

The district has also seen a steady increase in enrollment over the last few years.

Superintendent George McGuigan says with the current rate the community is growing – he’s concerned the province may be apprehensive with future funding.

“If this is the pattern that’s going to continue under this government, then it’s very important for us to be sticking to our priorities and focusing on what we can and cannot do.”

McGuigan notes like the FMPSD, the Catholic District also has reserve funds to help with their cuts over the next few years.

He says while they aren’t overly surprised by the cuts – they are surprised by the extent of them.

“There is a budget in the Spring which plans for the full school year next year so, it’s really too early to anticipate what that will look like. But I think across the province and school divisions, there will be worry and anxiety as to what it looks like.”

McGuigan adds they will wait and see until the next budget before making any harsh judgements on how the current government is handling the sector.

–With files from Brandon Piper.

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