EPSB will have to guess at its budget until Alberta government gives final answer

Trustees on the Edmonton Public School Board will have to brace for some late breaking news, after Premier Jason Kenney earlier this week at a cabinet retreat in Calgary confirmed to reporters that his government won’t table a provincial budget until “late October.”

That was after some encouraging economic forecasts from the Conference Board of Canada and the TD Bank.

“We’re far from out of the woods,” Kenney said. “The NDP dug us into a very deep hole.”

READ MORE: Balancing Alberta’s budget by 2022 will require tough choices on spending, taxes: economist

Faced with that assignment being handed in late, the EPSB will take its best guess at the final detail.

“It’s not ideal to base a $1.2-billion budget on assumptions,” board chair Trisha Estabrooks said in an interview with Global News.

“That’s something we had to do, so we’ll continue on and regardless of a budget based on assumptions or not.

“We still have students walking in the door of our 213 schools come September and we need to be ready for them.”

READ MORE: Calgary Catholic School District freezing hiring until provincial budget is tabled

Estabrooks said they know they’ll have more students this fall than last year as the trend continues in Edmonton. They got to work on things in March.

“The biggest assumption initially when we were talking our upcoming spring budget was questions around enrolment growth. So I was quite relieved as a trustee and now as board chair to see that this Kenney government is committing to funding enrolment growth.

“The fact that we could say ‘okay that’s not an assumption, that’s for sure’ — that was a huge relief.”

READ MORE: Alberta promises to fund fall school enrolment growth

That’s the good news, however Estabrooks anticipates other things will hurt, like the part of the budget that pays for teachers’ aids, classroom assistants and others. Estabrooks said there could potentially be a $10 million dollar hit.

“There’s lots of question marks around ‘What about the nutrition program?’ We’re fairly certain the classroom improvement program will be cut but there’s lots of other uncertainties.”

That’s why the decimal points after $1.2 billion will make a difference.

“One of the promises that Premier Kenney made was that his government will commit to either increasing or maintaining funding, and Edmonton Public will hold him to that promise.”

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© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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