Sask Rivers uses reserves to balance budget for second consecutive year

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald New board chair Darlene Rowden chaired her first meeting for the Saskatchewan Rivers board of education on Monday. Nov. 28.

The Saskatchewan Rivers School Division passed a balanced 2023-2024 budget, but had to dip into reserves to do it for the second year in a row.

The board of education passed their budget at their last regular meeting of the school year on Monday. Chief Financial Officer Jerrold Pidborochynski presented the budget during Monday’s school board meeting.

The Board approved the use of $975,000 from surplus to balance the budget this year. That reserve has been developed of the life of the school division. This was the second consecutive year where this measure had to be taken by the division. However, board chair Darlene Rowden said things could have been worse.

“The government provided an extra $40 million to education overall in the province. That was in early June and we were grateful for that. It translated into about $947,000 for our division, so that really helped make our budget less grim, I would say,’” Darlene Rowden said.

“But we still we still had to take $975,000 from our reserves to get our budget to balance even with that cash injection.”

The division received $947,000 from the province for Classroom Complexity and supports. The division is currently not eligible for the $20 million to address school enrolment growth beyond what was projected by school divisions.

Although the Board was thankful for the additional funding, they passed the budget with the recognition that more funding is still needed to meet the unique educational needs of the community.

There was $325,000 required to balance the budget in 2022-23 and $2.1M to balance the budget in 2021-22, however Rowden said reserves are meant for long-term projects, not to cover insufficient funding.

Rowden said that using reserves means that other parts of the budget still remain unsupported. She said the division needs more social workers, educational assistants, and support tech special programs.

If current funding trends continue, Rowden said the needs of students would not be met in Sask. Rivers.

“Eventually you won’t meet those needs if the budgets don’t support them,” she explained.

Rowden emphasized that the division appreciated the additional funding, but more would be welcomed.

The majority of the new funds the division received will be used to continue their literacy initiative, Cree Language programming, and to refresh some division tech equipment such as smart boards.

Pidborochynski told trustee Alan Nunn during the meeting that using surplus to achieve a balanced budget was sustainable for approximately the next five years.

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 $98,054,423 in 2022-2023 to $98,061,491 in 2023-2024.

The division’s federal grant remained steady at $21,300. Other provincial grants remained steady at $208,045.

Governance spending increased from $518,204 in 2022-2023 to $530,639 in 2023-2024.

Instructional salaries and benefits decreased from $56,600,151 in 2022-2023 to $56,371,878 in 2022-2023.

The division anticipates $632,000 in Sask DLC fees for students attending the new Saskatchewan Distance Learning Centre, which forced the closure of the Saskatchewan Rivers Distance Learning Centre.

Total program support, which includes things like teacher assistant and clerical salaries, was $14,648,662 in 2022-2023. Sask. Rivers budget documents show that total increasing to $17,043,510 in 2022-2023.

Total revenues increased from $114,033,871 to $117,135,417 over last year. Total expenditures also increased from $114,033,871 in 2022-2023 to $117,135,417 in 2022-2023.