Trustee Budget Transparency

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ARTICS would like to congratulate the Calgary Board of Education trustees for introducing a little more transparency into the budget process by presenting and approving the Office of the Board of Trustees’ budget at the public board meeting on May 1. You can see a breakdown of the $1,790,737 budget on page 7-3 of the board reports. Chair Cochrane went through each section to explain the expenses in each category. Unfortunately, there were no comparators given to last year’s budget, but it was mentioned that the budget is identical to the 2011-12 budget.

Other information that was presented during the discussion was that the trustees have underspent their budget during the past three years by  $154,000 (2008-09), $322,000 (2009-10) and $315,000 (2010-11) and are on track to underspend this year (2011-12) by $160,000. This underspend is applied to the CBE’s unrestricted net surplus at the end of each year.

It was somewhat surprising to hear that the trustees are still projected to underspend their budget by $160,000 this year despite their major governance and policy review which involved the work of consultants. If you recall, during the budget deliberations last June, Trustee Taylor brought forward a motion to freeze the Office of the Trustees’ budget from the prior year, which would have resulted in a $47,000 decrease to the 2011-12 budget. Only Trustees Taylor and Bazinet voted in favour of that motion. It turns out that the budget could have been cut by three times that amount and still been under budget.

On May 1, Trustee Taylor brought forward a motion to postpone approval of the budget and refer it to a working group of trustees with the intent of reducing the budget so that it would be more in-line with what they are actually spending. This would then free up some money that could be spent on students. Again all of the other trustees voted against the motion (Trustee Bazinet was absent) with the most common arguments being that the trustees were planning on doing a lot of community engagement next year that would cost a lot of money and that it was too late to change the budget.

We appreciate that the trustees held this discussion in a public, transparent manner and we trust that they still abide by the words of Chair Cochrane on January 24, 2012:

The Board of Trustees of the Calgary Board of Education are elected by Calgarians. We are their representatives. We are entrusted with the education of more than 104,000 students. If you think that we’re not aware of that, in every decision that we make, you’re wrong. Everything that we do, every penny we get, every penny we spend, we carefully consider how it will affect the learning of 104,000 students. It is a truly awesome responsibility that we have. We take it seriously.