The Foothills School Division board has passed its 2022-23 budget which includes staff cuts and fee increases.

Assistant superintendent Drew Chipman says it was a difficult process coming up with the document, dealing with the realities in front of them while staying true to the consultation that was done through the Ideas That Make Sense engagement, the Assurance survey, Superintendent advisory sessions, and parent councils.

"Certainly when you have to make some reductions it's challenging. Luckily over the last number of years we've had the benefit of being able to spend dollars from reserves so we've been able to add to the budget, now that those dollars have dwindled to the point where we need to get to a balanced budget we've had to tighten up a little bit," says Chipman.

He says when 81 per cent of expenses are spent on salaries staffing had to be looked at with three per cent of certificated staff being laid off along with five per cent of support staff including at the division office and facilities.

But they also looked at generating more revenue including an increase in transportation fees.

New transportation fees:

Funded transportation students will see the implementation of a fee beginning February 1st, 2023. The fee for funded student transportation will be $75 from February 1-June 30, 2023 (1/2 year) and will be set at $150 for the full 2023-2024 year.

Kindergarten students living less than 2.4 km from school (or attending a school other than their designated school): $200.

Grades 1-12 students living less than 2.4 km from school (or attending a school other than their designated school): $400.

Chipman says, as has always been the case in the Foothills School Division, student learning remained the priority.

"Our commitment is to the classroom, to making great opportunities for our students. We had the benefit of putting dollars back into the classroom because we had reserves that we could run a deficit in and this budget does provide for an additional deficit, down from around $4 million to about $1.5 million next year so we are still taking some dollars out of reserves, at the end of next year we really won't have dollars that we're able to take out of reserves moving forward so we're certainly hopeful the Province will come up with some additional dollars to help us through some of those big challenges we have like insurance, like fuel, but we focus on the classroom, we focus on listening to parents, listening to staff, listening to the feedback we get and making sure our students get a great education."

He says the province already insures its own buildings and facilities except for schools.

They're asking the government to do the same for school buildings across the province.