Catholic Division reluctantly uses reserves to balance budget

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald The Prince Albert Catholic School Division board of education met in the Education Centre in September, 2022.

The Prince Albert Catholic School Division passed a balanced budget for 2023-2024 by dipping into their reserves.

The board of education made the decision during their meeting on Monday evening. Education Director Lorel Trumier said that they voted to use their reserves reluctantly.

“We’re balancing that with the reserves and that is our largest concern because there is no ability to regain reserve,” Trumier said.

She added that it was necessary to ensure students still have the best programming and education experiences that they are used to.

“I think of we’re going to still attempt to have the technology that our children are used to and continue to maintain and sustain and improve our technological opportunities for students,” Trumier said.

“We’re making very definitive decisions on those (resources),” she added. “There are places in that preparation of our budget where we know that we’re just not funded adequately for.”

A major example of a change in budgeting is the use of site licensing for educational materials. Trumier said more textbook publishers are moving to online site licensing as a mode of delivery. That means the school division has to pay a fee every year, instead of paying a one-time cost for a physical textbook.

“That’s one of those places where we need funding to reflect that kind of element that’s happening in the world around us,’ Trumier said. “It’s not something the school division’s making decision on.”

Trumier said that with other divisions in the province entering a similar or worse dilemma, she hopes the province will come through.

“That’s why we’re proposing the budget that were proposing,” she explained. “We’re hoping the Ministry of Education and the government assesses what’s happening across the province. We know school division across the province are, are very much struggling to make their ends meet.

“There is a surplus in this province that we want them to invest in our children and their children’s education and let’s hope that that’s what can come through.”

The board looked at different options to achieve a balanced budget. Budget numbers provided by Chief Financial Officer Greg McEwen show the Catholic Division expects $34,397,823 in revenue. Most of that revenue will come from the Ministry of Education’s annual grant. The provincial grant is $27,711,711.

The total expenditures budgeted for 2023-2024 is $34,950,103 with a projected deficit of approximately $550,000. 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.

The unrestricted surplus used to get to balance was $99,279. Some 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 others.

This year, the division budgeted $24,225,598 for Instruction which includes teacher salaries, EA salaries and includes resources for students.

When the budget passed trustee Darryl Sandee noted that they passed the budget reluctantly.

“I think this board is very interested in doing the best we can for our students and our children, because we take the responsibility of educating their children very seriously and ensuring that the fiscal decisions we make are responsible decisions,” Trumier said.

“I think that the board is taking that very seriously and, and reluctantly using reserves to do it,” she added.

Trumier said they want to be able to have an impact on students now.

“You can’t not use those resources for the purpose of educating our children. We want to do that well,” Trumier said.

McEwen explained that the division is mid-sized in relation to other divisions and doesn’t have much for reserves. When he was asked by trustees if this type of budgeting is sustainable he said it was for upwards of two years.

Because the board was passing a Strategic Plan in the meeting the budget had to be done at the same time as the two matters are related with the plan funded by the budget.