Catholic Division still looking at implications around provincial budget

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The latest provincial budget includes a slight allocation increase for the Prince Albert Catholic School Division, but education director Lorel Trumier said it won’t be enough to address some additional financial pressures.

According to numbers provided in a memo, the Prince Albert Catholic School Division operating funding allocation for Sept. 1 to August 31 increased to $29,612,365 in 2022-2023, or $129,669, which equals a 0.4 per cent increase year over year.

Numbers may change after mid-year adjustments when the final enrolment figures are available on Sept. 30.

Trumier and Chief Financial Officer Greg McEwen gave trustees a breakdown of the numbers included in the March 23 budget during Monday’s meeting.

“We certainly were concerned about elements like the inflation and fuel increases and operational increases,” Trumier said. “As we enter into planning for the 2022-2023 school year, we need to understand what the implications are.”

Education Minister Dustin Duncan told reporters on March 23 that he understood concerns about inflation, but said it wasn’t a big factor in the increase to education costs.

“The things that are affected by inflation are relatively minor,” he told the CBC.

“Our major cost is our teacher salaries and that’s fully funded at two per cent, so that really isn’t affected by inflation.”

Trumier explained that they will look at other ways to enhance education including targeted classroom supports. The next steps are to begin completing their own budget process. The budget committee set meeting dates during the regular meeting on Monday.

“We are just working through achieving a budget and insuring that we have all of the needs that we want,” she said.

The school division will also receive funds from an Employee Absenteeism funding allocation. The province has provided $1.8 million for the province’s school divisions to draw from.

During the meeting the board was also notified that they will be receiving funding from an Employee Absenteeism funding allocation of $1.8 million from the province.

Recognized funding for Preventative Maintenance and Renewal has also increased by $71,668 over realized funding from last year.

Trumier said the absentee funding will be a big boost for the division.

“Sometimes we have gone with some staff shortages where we are not able to articulate the cost of the sub because they may have not been a sub, or an administrator was in the classroom being the sub that day because we were short,” she explained. “That’s what COVID does. I don’t think that there is an organization that’s unique to some of that occurrence. School division wide or province wide, those things are occurring for sure.”

Trustees were also advised that the division received $65,531 in a capital grant from the Ministry of Education to improve air quality.

“We are going to look at that. It was approximately $60,000, which can be used for HVAC improvements, repairs, maintenance, windows, anything that will help the air quality in classrooms or in schools, so that’s good. We are happy to have that because sometimes that gives us the ability to address other priorities,” she said.

That funding came from the Federal government committing $3.979 million to Saskatchewan to invest in ventilation improvements in the education sector to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The funding is a top up the federal program for the 2020-2021 school years.

In 2018, the Catholic Division enacted a bylaw where they can determine its own separate school division tax and set education mill rates. The division is required to pass a resolution each year before April 20 to set their own property tax mill rates.

At the meeting on Monday, the board chose to set their mill rate the same as that of the province. The 2022 provincial mill rate is 1.42 mills for agricultural property, 4.54 for residential property, 6.86 mills for commercial/industrial property and 9.88 mills for resource property.