Variance Analysis of Spring Budget to Actual Expenditures 2020-21
The following chart depicts the financial performance of Northern Lights Public Schools for the year ending August 31, 2021.
|Expenses by Program
|Instruction - Pre K
|Instruction - K - 12
|Operations and Maintenance
While variances represent a discrepancy from plans, they do not reflect a complete picture. A quick view of the revenue discrepancy would indicate that predictions for revenue generation were very accurate. Revenue on a line by line basis fluctuated greatly. The initial projections for enrollment, revenue and expenditures assumed that the effect of the pandemic would subside. Initial projections also included that enrollment would remain consistent. COVID resulted in a reduction of School Generated Funds (SGF) activities and revenues. The division was impacted by the decision made by Alberta Education to record the reduction to funding in the current year, while recognizing the revenue for COVID mitigation in the following year. This resulted in a significant change.
The budgeting process was impacted specifically in the area of Program Unit Funding (PUF). Due to COVID, a number of parents chose not to enrol their children in pre-K or kindergarten programs. This choice not to enrol children for additional supports at an early age may have a negative impact on their development as they progress through the school system.
The pandemic caused an increase in online and homeschooling educational opportunities for students from across the province. Even though Northern Lights started an online program to meet the needs of students, the division experienced an unexpected decline in enrollment. The division chose to not adjust the number of certificated teaching staff, as it would be difficult to adjust mid-year if students returned. The number of support staff directly related to individual student needs was adjusted. As experienced in divisions across the province, many of the activities for students and staff did not occur during the year (e.g. fundraising, field trips, professional development, extra-curricular activities, etc). This resulted in a reduction in spending in the instructional envelope overall.
Operations and maintenance had a challenging year. In addition to regular duties, they were tasked with additional sanitization needs as required by Alberta Health Services. Northern Lights also experienced changes in funding for Infrastructure Maintenance and Renewal (IMR) and Capital Maintenance and Renewal (CMR) due to the new funding framework. As per direction from Alberta Education, a significant portion of the current year IMR funds needed to be capitalized. The timing of the communication of this change did not allow sufficient time for adapting plans. As a result, overspending in this envelope was imminent.
Transportation operated within their projected budget. Cost savings were recognized in this portfolio as a result of collapsing routes due to decreased enrollment. Issues with insurance premium increases for contracted bus operators posed difficulties. The division also experienced a deficiency of trained school bus drivers. Contracted Bus Operators (CBO) expressed concerns with continuing to provide service given the reduction to the already non-existent profitability for them.
System governance and administration adapted to the pandemic in 2020-21. Board meetings, professional development, and other division meetings were conducted virtually and travel was significantly limited for trustees and division office staff. Given the added responsibilities of the pandemic, the reduction of time spent travelling was diverted to managing COVID related issues. Due to the increased efforts in managing COVID and the additional stress and anxiety impacting students and staff, the growth and priorities of the division were impacted.
External services, consisting mostly of pre-school and out of school care, saw a significant reduction to their operations. The division received additional grants to assist with providing these services during the pandemic. These programs operated within their established budgets even though they experienced a reduction in children participating due to parents keeping their children home during the pandemic.
Northern Lights, as many other school divisions, was not able to expend the budget as planned. We continued to assess and adapt to meet needs as they arose due to the evolution of the pandemic. Reserves for the division lie at the lower end of the recommended Alberta Education range for school divisions of similar size. The slight growth of reserves will be used as the division continues to deal with COVID-19 and the operational requirements of ensuring the safety of students and staff.
Audited Financial Statements
Information in greater detail can be found at https://www.nlpsab.ca/accountability.
For further information, please contact Paula Elock, Secretary-Treasurer at Division Office (780.826.3145).
COVID-19 significantly impacted the opportunities for face to face engagement during the 2020-2021 school year. Division efforts focused on providing students as high quality education as possible in an extremely disruptive year. High rates of COVID-19 in our region made the priority of keeping kids in schools. The Board of Trustees endorsed an extension of current priorities due to the delays caused by COVID-19. Engagement opportunities for stakeholders were limited and took place through surveys or online format.
The Board engaged school councils regionally in online forums to report progress and receive feedback on local issues. These meetings occurred for the school councils in the Bonnyville, Cold Lake, and Lac La Biche regions. The online format led to a strong participation with over 125 participants. The Board will continue to engage in regionalized meetings that will hopefully occur face to face when we are able.
Due to the impending space issues in Cold Lake at a number of schools, the division continued on with its Cold Lake Configuration process. A committee of parents representing all schools was struck to build scenarios that would address space issues and programming needs. This committee facilitated the collection of data from stakeholders in the Cold Lake region to determine the preferred grade configuration model. 1700 people participated in the engagement including parents, staff, and students to help the committee make a recommendation to the Board.
The Board provides ongoing opportunities for engagement on specific initiatives, policies and procedures, through an online platform identified as Engage NLPS. This platform allows for engagement of both stakeholders and staff in separate formats. Northern Lights continues to identify new ways to engage our stakeholders and increase participation in our engagement opportunities. These additional engagement efforts continually reaffirm our commitment to our numeracy and mental health and wellness priorities.
School councils are a vital component of the success of students in Northern Lights. They represent the voice of stakeholders in each individual school. To ensure school council involvement and ownership of the schools’ three-year plans and the reporting of its results, the division has utilized a template that is a combined document. A data driven, robust consultation process was enacted to determine the division priorities that resulted in a strong focus on numeracy and mental health of students. Schools create with stakeholders a three year plan that must include the division and any locally determined priorities. Individual school priorities are determined by school principals reviewing relevant data sets with school council, staff, and students depending on age. This document is reviewed frequently throughout the year at school council meetings by principals and must be signed off by the school council chair to ensure their knowledge and endorsement of the schools’ priorities and strategies. By November of the following school year the principal completes the results portion of the three year plan and reports directly to the school council.
In an effort to provide stakeholders the assurance that the division is meeting its responsibilities, Northern Lights Public Schools makes the Annual Education Results Report available in its entirety online at https://www.nlpsab.ca/accountability/aerr-3-year-education-plan and also provides a one-page summary to every household in the jurisdiction via Canada Post. Northern Lights Public Schools also operates a Facebook page, and Instagram and Twitter accounts. We recently added School Messenger, which allows the division, schools and individual teachers with opportunities to connect with students and parents.
The Annual Education Results Report was presented to the Board of Trustees at a public meeting on November 30, 2021. The approved report was posted to our website at nlpsab.ca and electronic copies were provided to school administrators and school council chairs. Print copies are available to the public upon request, at no charge, by contacting our Division Office at 780-826-3145. Electronic copies can be found at https://www.nlpsab.ca/accountability. Northern Lights Public Schools also develops and provides, in conjunction with school councils, Three-Year Education Plans. Copies of these school plans are provided to School Council members and are available on school websites.