Catholic Division dips into reserves to pass balanced budget

Herald file photo.

For the second straight year, the Prince Albert Catholic School Division passed a balanced budget for 2024-2025 by dipping into its reserves.
The board of education made the decision during their meeting on Monday evening after a presentation by Chief Financial Officer Greg McEwen. McEwen said creating a sustainable budget is difficult.
“It’s a challenge just given the general insufficiency of resources,” he said. “Basically our costs are always going up and our challenge is always to cover off those costs with the available resources that we have and then still (meeting) our goal of providing exceptional
educational experiences for our students.
“It’s always a challenge, but we have a process that we go through to respond to that challenge, and I think we’ve come up with a budget that is reasonable and hopefully financially sustainable.”
Budget numbers provided by McEwen show the Catholic Division expects $37,943,723 in revenue. Most of that revenue will come from the Ministry of Education’s annual grant of $31,113,199.
The total expenditures budgeted for 2024-2025 is $38,415,922 with a projected deficit of approximately $472,219. Even after making cash position adjustments the division still had a deficit of over $1 million.
Therefore, the administration proposed to make up the difference by using reserves and unrestricted surplus.
“That’s unfortunately been a bit of a trend that we’ve experienced over the last few years,” McEwen said. “To provide that exceptional educational experience we’ve had to dip into those reserves to balance the budget.”
McEwen explained that administration funds from externally restricted and internally restricted reserves. The two major components of external reserves were the St. John Community School renovation project and the Specialized Support Classroom program that
began this year and continues in 2024-2025.
“You’re seeing $321,000 being carried over from this year into 24-25 to again fund that program, and again that’s fully funded by the Ministry of Education,” McEwen said. “That revised cash position looks like it’s a big negative number, but it’s made up of two major
components that are fully funded.”
The internally restricted reserves used to balance the budget totalled $214,000.
“But of that, $30,000 relates to the (2024 trustee) election so as I said earlier, that was all planned stuff. That was the very specific purpose. We’ve got $25,000 coming out for computer hardware, so that’s coming out of that internally restricted reserve,” McEwen said.
“We did recognize that there would be a trustee election in November of 2024, so to plan ahead we put money aside for that purpose and then we are taking it out in 2024 to use to fund the election, so that was a planned expenditure,” he added.
The unrestricted surplus used to get to balance was $1,131,625. Some other examples of reserves used to get to balance were the PMR restricted reserve, ELIS restricted reserve, classroom equipment and supplies reserve and the other students’ needs reserve, among
This year, the division budgeted $27,463,894 for Instruction which includes teacher salaries, EA salaries and includes resources for students.
The budget that was passed is also contingent on what happens with the STF vote on the tentative agreement with the province on Wednesday and Thursday. According to McEwen, the Ministry of Education has not provided information on how to move forward when an
agreement is reached, whether now or in the future. McEwen explained that the board passed a budget that was presented with the information available at the time.
“Depending on how that’s all resolved, there may be adjustments required to the ’24-25 budget as presented to the board,” he explained. “That’s why the board approved it subject to changes made after the Ministry of Education approves it.”
There’s a big contingency out there now depending on what happens with tentative agreements, so we passed it and followed our process,” he added. We passed it yesterday (Monday) but there could be modifications required because of that resolution of that
tentative agreement.”