Catholic Division budget sees shortfall because of enrolment projections

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The Prince Albert Catholic School Division saw a drop in enrolment last school year, and expect another drop in funding in their 2021-2022 budget estimates.

Education Director Lorel Trumier said they’ll receive around $600,000 less in grants from the Ministry of Education, but have found a way to make the budget work.

Trumier said the division takes a conservative approach to enrolment projections for next school year, so funding levels may still change.

“There are many elements that would contribute to taking a conservative approach. We have students that perhaps returned to our school division, (and) there may be students who are returning from online, but we are not certain what their wishes will be,” she explained.

Trumier said the school board took a hard look at their spending to make sure all dollars were being used efficiently.

One of the biggest impacts came from Ecole St. Mary High School, which graduated the largest class in school history last June. Trumier said they expect to see lower student numbers just from graduating that cohort. So far, the board estimates they’ll have around 3,000 students in the division.

“Until students register in the fall we don’t have a sense of exactly how many students will be entering into our system,” she explained. “It’s one of those positions we are where we will be looking forward to seeing the students that register this fall.”

The division will receive around $598,000 less this year for a total estimated revenues of $32,282,542, according to a memo submitted to the board of education’s final meeting of 2020-2021.

According to the memo, the division’s expenditure on instruction for the upcoming school year will be $24,261,356. The administration budget expenditure is $1,929,999.

The board passed their budget on May 31, and finalized it at their final regular board meeting of the school year on June 21. The original budget had not yet received Ministry of Education approval, and was passed pending any major changes from the province.

Trumier said the division they’ve tried to keep in contact with students and families to get a sense of who is returning and who isn’t.

“If they are leaving or if they are transferring school or something to that effect, of course we would want to understand the reasons why,” she explained. “Obviously because of COVID we were paying particular attention to that, because we wanted to make sure that connection remains as positive as possible.”

“We understand that students come or go for many reasons, and we certainly want to be in tune with them–especially in a year such as COVID. Physical distancing didn’t mean that we had to be socially distanced from what the families were feeling and thinking,”’ she added.

Trumier said the division will not lose staff through layoff or attrition. She said the division built its budget around keeping enough teachers and staff in the classroom.

“We replaced all of the teachers that were retiring,” she said.

Trumier said the division is using reserves for a one-time purchases to improve technology, like the Edsby Platform which was added this year.

“With COVID and remote learning and elements that come with it, we knew that also had to be a priority for our school division in terms of general operations,” Trumier said.

“We are fortunate that the board understands how teachers are so important in the learning process that would be the priority to look at for next year,” she said.

Looking at the budget numbers provided by Chief Financial Office Greg McEwen, the Catholic Division is budgeting $32,282,542 in revenue. The vast majority of that revenue will come from the Ministry of Education’s annual grant.

The total expenditures budgeted for 2021-2022 is $34,585,480, with a projected deficit of $2,302,938.

The provincial grant is $25,963,167.

The division plans to spend the entire amount between operations expenditures, capital expenditures which includes computer hardware the division is purchasing, and repayment of debt.

The school division will introduce a new program at St. Michael Community School for early childhood that will focus on Michif cultures and languages.

Trumier explained that they are also looking forward to starting programs that will focus on literacy through smaller group learning in Grade 1 to Grade 3 classrooms.

“Sometimes there were opportunities where students were not having that same in class or in person focus on reading and writing,” Trumier said. “We are really looking at trying to supplement what our classroom teachers are doing for next year to support that reading and writing instruction.”