Catholic School Division passes balanced budget with eye towards COVID-19

Lorel Trumier /Herald File Photo

The Prince Albert Catholic School Division has passed a balanced budget without utilizing reserves. The board of education passed their 2020-2021 budget on Wednesday, June 17 after first going over the numbers during their final regular meeting of the school year on Monday, June 15.

“We were contemplating the use of reserves we have presented a budget that does not use reserves,” director of education Lorel Trumier said.

“We are going to be very cautious about that. Our school division does not have a large reserve where there are other school divisions that do and so we have always been of the opinion that the dollars need to be spent on our children and we need to educate them well so they are the priority. And whatever we can do to make that happen we do. We try to look at different funding sources like the Climate Action Incentive Fund to assist with the funds so whenever we can participate in that we are doing it,” she added.

According to Trumier, about 85 percent of the budget is related to staffing . They have put some money away for COVID-19 preparedness with expenditures in both the current school year and the next school year.

“We had to prioritize that and it is necessary but it is important we are not alone in this world fighting this so we are going to do our part to make sure our children are safe and we are going to do our part to make sure they are taught well in these unprecedented times,” Trumier said.

They arrive at a break-even budget without using their long-term reserves. This is typically the approach the Catholic Division takes and uses the funding for the benefit of students.

“We have budgeted some additional dollars there to ensure that we have all of the procedures and aspects in place that we might be required,” Trumier said.

Among those investments was the new Edsby portal and MySchoolSask which the board received a walk-through on during their regular meeting on Monday.

“So we have invested in that next year. Those are some of the significant elements,” Trumier said.

The division’s three-year PMR plan was approved by the Ministry of Education and the board was notified of this during their regular meeting. At their meeting in May the board approved an amended three-year (fiscal years 2021-2022, 2022-2023 and 2023-2024) PMR projects list.

The amendments include plexiglass for reception areas to protect workers in light of the pandemic at the Catholic Education Centre, Holy Cross, St Catherine, St. Francis, St. John, St. Mary, St. Michael and St. Anne. Other projects included sanding and refinishing the floor, replacing tiles and replacing stair treads at St. Mary. There are also other projects at St. Francis, St. Anne and Holy Cross in the amended list.

“I think the biggest piece would be elements that we weren’t anticipating spending money on that now we will. Sneeze guards and those kinds of things in particular areas of our schools just as a support,” she said.

The most expensive project is the replacement of roofing on the second level at St. Francis which is estimated at $242,643. The board approved the hiring of Prakash Consulting of Prince Albert for tender on that project during Monday’s regular meeting. The division is also taking part in the Climate Action Incentive Fund which is available to the division. The fund is the result of an agreement between federal and provincial government to allocate just over $12 million to school divisions. The Catholic Division’s share is $269,378 and it is to be used for specific types of projects that have a result in reducing their energy footprint. Examples include things such as the installation of LED lighting or replacement of HVAC units, replacement of windows and doors, roofing and exterior refinishing.

These projects must be completed by March 31, 2021. Administration is identifying projects and will advise board once identified and make submissions.

Administration in the division chose to participate in the fund and are partnering with the Ministry and 21 other school divisions in an LED lighting Retrofit Request for Proposal and a supply Request for Proposal. Both have been posted on SaskTenders as of June 1 with a closing date of Tuesday, June 23.

“It only makes good sense because we get a return from that. Not only do we improve things from our climate perspective we also gain financial return on it because our costs are also lowered with the use of LED lighting. So over time we do gain and if we can use efficiency elements like LED lighting it only helps to educate our children. Those dollars aren’t spent on turning lights on. They are spent on putting teachers and staff in place,” Trumier said.

Looking at the budget numbers provided by Chief Financial Officer Greg McEwan, the Catholic Division is budgeting just over $32.7 million in revenue, with the vast majority of revenue coming from the Ministry of Education’s annual grant. They have also set aside $800,000 for PMR spending which includes some of the COVID-19 preparations.