Sask Rivers dips into reserves to balance budget for 3rd year in a row, CFO confident things moving ‘in the right direction’

Herald file photo. The Saskatchewan Rivers School Board meets at the Sask. Rivers Education Centre.

The Saskatchewan Rivers School Division passed a balanced 2024-2025 budget, but had to dip into reserves to do it for the third year in a row.
The division also benefited from provincial funding to offset inflationary costs.
The board of education passed their budget at their regular meeting on Monday. Chief Financial Officer Jerrold Pidborochynski presented the budget during Monday’s school board meeting and said the provincial funding for inflation was a positive move.
“What I would say is that this is moving in the right direction,” he said.
“The budgets have been pretty, pretty tough for the last 10 years, so this is probably the best budget we’ve seen the last 10 years. It’s a move in the right direction, but again, we’re making up for lost time, but definitely covering off inflationary costs and giving some additional money for costs and supports is very welcome.”
The budget can be described as a ‘maintain’ budget because it keeps everything relatively the same.
Pidborochynski said they received money to cover inflation in building operation costs, teacher salaries, and non-teacher salaries. They also received an extra $367,000 for classroom supports.
Pidborochynski hopes to see the inflationary cost funding continue into next year.
“That’s a bare minimum, right, to cover the inflationary cost, but then again we’re always looking for additional funds because there is a need out there,” he explained. “We do have the need in our schools for additional supports.”
The division took $552,232 from reserves to balance the budget. The Board approved the use of $975,000 from surplus to balance the budget last year. Roughly $325,000 was required to balance the budget in 2022-23 and $2.1M to balance the budget in 2021-22.
The use of reserves was set aside for specific items like the division’s early literacy support project, the 2024 board election and cybersecurity upgrades.
Pidborochynski said all school divisions are looking at cybersecurity risks. He said there is a large provincial request for proposals (RFP) that Sask Rivers is looking to be a part of.
“We’re hoping the ministry funds, not just our school division, but the entire province and education, whether that’s post-secondary or K to 12 or health or whatever,” he said. “All organizations need this…. This is the first year of implementation that we’re just going
through right now. We have some use of surplus for cyber security services as well.”
The early learning literacy support project is entering its third year. The Literacy Support Project will cost $287,232, the board elections will cost $100,000 and Cybersecurity Services will cost $165,000. The division always sets aside money for school board elections as a standard procedure.
Grants played a big part in keeping the school division on track. They account for roughly 86 per cent of the division’s revenue.
The division’s funding from the provincial government increased this budget year. The total grants from the Ministry of Education to Saskatchewan school boards increased from$95,234,564 in 2023-2024 to $98,611,067 in 2024-2025.
The Operating Grant for Preventative Maintenance and Renewal decreased from $2,621,413
in 2023-2024 to $2,620,000 in 2024-2025.
Total Federal Grants increased from $1,745,541 in 2023-2024 to $3,107,647 in 2024-2025.
The large increase in total federal grants is due to funding from Jordan’s Principle.
“This year in the 2024 budget, we have $3.1 million, it’s from Indigenous Services Canada, So it’s a federal grant and that’s to hire EAs and Mentors to specifically work for with Indigenous students,” Pidborochynski said.
This funding will allow them to hire or keep 24 Education Assistants and 36.5 Mentors in the division to work with Indigenous students.
Along with the EAs and Mentors, the division has added another half time mental supportworker
“Mental health is a big focus in education and everywhere,” Pidborochynski said.
The division has also increased the budget for Elder support which will allow Elders to come into schools on a more frequent basis.
The division’s general federal grant remained steady at $21,300. Other provincial grants
increased to $210,237.
Governance spending increased from $530,639 in 2023-2024 to $530,639 in 2023-2024.
Instructional salaries and benefits decreased from $56,371,878 in 2023-2024 to $59,037,806 in 2022-2024. Instructional salaries and benefits make up 69.40 per cent of budget expenses.
Total program support, which includes things like teacher assistant and clerical salaries, was $17,043,510 in 2023-2024. Sask. Rivers budget documents show that the total increases to $18,713,160 in 2024-2025.
Total revenues increased from $117,224,321 to $122,072,688 over last year. Total expenditures also increased from $117,224,321 in 2023-2024 to $122,072,688 in 2024-2025.