Catholic Division still must dip into reserves to balance budget despite extra funding from the province

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 still plans on dipping into its reserves to balance its 2023-24 budget, despite a recent education funding boost from the provincial government.

The division received $288,268 in additional Classroom Complexity funding, but those extra funds weren’t enough to cause major changes to the original budget proposal.

“It still shows that the funding dollars are not sufficient, but we’re happy to have anything that can be provided,” education director Lorel Trumier said. “ We’re going to go into the reserves next year to reach a balanced budget, but it’s not the way we would want this to go.”

“We’re still going to continue to advocate for funding that would support our students in our community.”

The division is currently not eligible for the $20 million to address school enrolment growth beyond what was projected by school divisions. Trumier said they could be eligible if enrollment numbers change, but they don’t want to plan for extra students who might not enrol.

“We don’t want to be in a position where we’re over staffing or over budgeting when there’s going to be a negative midyear adjustment,” Trumier said. “We don’t want that.”

She added that the division has to watch every penny, so if they move into eligibility at the mid-year adjustment.

“We have lots of movement … in and out of Prince Albert at any given time, where maybe the largest cities are a little bit more stable,” Trumier explained. “They would maybe have more incoming students in the larger cities because of the immigration kinds of processes that are occurring right now.”

With the new funding came an adjustment to the deadline to submit a budget to the province. School divisions now have until July 30, but the Catholic Division made some adjustments and passed the budget well ahead of that time.

Trumier said they wanted to work quickly because it would be a difficult budget.

“We had some tough decisions to make. We were trying to make sure that there was no impact to the students in the classroom,” Trumier said.
“We’ve been working at it quite diligently. We came to what we thought was our best-case scenario and went to the board and said, ‘we need to know if we can use reserves for this process to balance the budget this coming year.’

“From a budget preparation position, we were in a good position because we had used our time very efficiently. The $280,000 is certainly going to help us, but it’s just not sufficient,” she added.

Trumier said other Catholic school divisions across the province making difficult decisions on how many extracurricular activities to allow or teachers to have in the classroom. She said they’re trying to avoid cutting both by dipping into reserves.

“We need to send the message that the dollars are just not covering what’s required,” she said. “We’re hoping that that can change, of course.”

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 $34,686,091 in revenue. Most of that revenue will come from the Ministry of Education’s annual grant of $27,711,711.

The total expenditures budgeted for 2023-2024 is $34,950,103 with a projected deficit of approximately $264,012. Even after making cash position adjustments the division still had a deficit of $746,685. That’s less than the initial budget passed on June 1, which was more than $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 $746,685. 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.

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 at the first budget passing meeting on June 1 if this type of budgeting is sustainable, he said it was for upwards of two years.