The Foothills School Division isn't too happy with Highwood MLA and Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation RJ Sigurdson.

Sigurdson recently had a few things to say at a March 7 Budget Town Hall at the Flare N Derrick in Turner Valley.

Community members reached out to the FSD and quoted Sigurdson as saying "...and when I had somebody get mad at me last year to say there's not enough money in the Foothills School Division, I go, then why did they put over a million dollars in reserve? They didn't even spend all the money we gave them."

The FSD released a statement saying his comments about their funding is incomplete and somewhat misleading.

The school division shared their audited financial statements in the media release stating, "We are required to file these documents annually and Alberta Education is aware of any transfer of funds from capital reserves to operating reserves as this must be requested via Alberta Education. Every year that FSD has chosen to spend down reserves and post a deficit budget, the transfer of funds has been approved."

Foothills School Division breakdown of budgets (graph supplied by FSD)Foothills School Division breakdown of budgets (graph supplied by FSD)

"FSD has run deficits since 2015 – 2016, we’ve shown the last four years from 2019-2020. We have placed our reserve dollars into classrooms to best meet the needs of students. This has continued into the current year, 2023-2024, as we have an additional budgeted deficit of $922,489. Foothills School Division has steadily drawn down our operating reserves by over $3,250,000 in the last 4 years. Additionally, capital reserves have been drawn down over $1,800,000 - largely as a result of transferring funds to operating reserves to cover deficit budgets. This was the case in 2022-2023 (the slight increase in the capital reserves funds) as the additional dollars were transferred from operating reserves to specifically fund bus purchases (due to changes to the Transportation regulation) and capital lease obligations. The transfer of those reserve dollars did not contribute to FSD’s operating shortfalls. Given that the division’s operating reserves are now at a level that cannot supplement government funding, Foothills School Division can no longer finance its own deficits through reserve funds. The 2024- 2025 budget will be balanced to actual revenues against known expenditures. Thank you for the opportunity to provide clarity and the complete story of operating reserves at Foothills School Division and how we continue to place education at the centre of a flourishing community."

The Foothills School Division and Sigurdson are set to meet this Friday, March 22.