Let’s Crunch Some Numbers: My Opinion on ECSD’s Fiscal Challenges
Before I crunch some ECSD numbers I would like to introduce you to my financial side. When I worked as the head of the Program and Retreat Department at Providence Renewal Centre, I increased our revenues 33.6% and decreased our expenses by 10% over my 5 years there.
When I became a member of the Woodcroft Community League in 2005 we were near bankruptcy. In 2006 when I began my 4 year term as President of the league, I turned our finances around to the point where we were able to build a $600,000 playground. I learned from our Treasurer that we were never going to be able to afford a new playground if we continued to use our casino money to heat our hall and maintain it. I therefore pursued the idea of getting a partner to share our hall, bringing in rental income which would offset the cost of keeping our hall open. We ended up partnering with 3 groups: the Woodcroft Playschool Association, Inland Cement (they use our roof as a station for their air quality testing instruments), and the Alberta St. George of England Society (ASGOES). ASGOES has since left our hall to partner with the Edmonton Scottish Society. Through my connections with Edmonton’s Art’s Community I recommended our league partner with the Edmonton Musical Theatre which I had learned, were needing a new home. They accepted our invitation. Having these 3 groups in our hall has not hindered our community’s use of it. Because the community benefits from having these groups in our hall – preschool children from the neighbourhood attend the Woodcroft Playschool and older children attend the Edmonton Musical Theatre – it is a win – win for all groups.
So all told, these groups bring in $3,700 per month in revenue which more than pays for the utilities and the maintenance of our hall. We were then able to take our casino money and invest it until such time as we needed it for matching grants. It took 4 years to save enough money for our playground but it was finally built in the summer of 2012.
Many people have asked me how I will deal with fiscal challenges our district is facing. I believe in the concept of “Zero Based Budgeting”. This means that we begin our budgeting from scratch looking at our top priorities. This form of budgeting is the opposite of what is used currently which is to take each existing category and increase it with the cost of living.
So I think we can all agree that our top priority is the classroom – this is our raison d’etre as a school district. With this form of budgeting we would look at all the money we need to provide an optimal learning environment for students. This would include for example the teacher’s salary, heat, electricity, school supplies, and janitorial services. I would also include that the classrooms would be budgeted based on the Alberta Education recommended size of classroom for each grade level. When we have designated all the required money for the classroom, we go to our next priority and so on. Using this form of budgeting, it may be that inservices and pizza lunches might not get any funding this year but we will know that our $400 million is at least going to what we have designated our top priorities.