Saskatchewan Rivers School Division passes balanced budget without utilizing surplus

Saskatchewan Rivers School Board director of education Robert Bratvold answers a question at the 2016 AGM.

The Saskatchewan Rivers School Division has found a way to pass their 2020-2021 budget without dipping into their accumulated surplus. The board of education passed their budget at their second last regular meeting of the school year on Monday, June 8 and the division views it as positive after using surplus to balance last year.

“One thing is that it is a balanced budget and that is a positive thing we have had several years of reductions and we have been able to sustain our operations and balance the budget so that’s a good thing for us,” director of education Robert Bratvold said.

“Another positive is that we have been able to increase our staff slightly in the mental health supports area and so we know that is a growing need and we will be able to respond to that so that is a good thing around our budget,” he added.

Bratvold explained that the division has been able to hold the line of the budget. This comes after dipping into reserves in the 2019-2020 budget. The division did not have to use their accumulated surplus has developed over the life of the school division.

“So we know that we had to access reserves to balance the budget last year and that is not sustainable and so we have been able to balance our budget without accessing reserves and that’s a positive thing for us.”

According to Bratvold, the budget is challenging to pass.

“There are lots of things that we wanted to do in the budget and we didn’t have funding to do and there were other things that we had to reduce and find some savings so that we could maintain our operations.”

“Even additions is one thing but just to keep up with the regular fixed cost increases. The largest portion of our budget is salary. Salaries continue to rise as the cost of living rises and that’s an appropriate relationship but it has an impact on our budget. (About) 70 per cent of our budget is salaries and when they increase that puts pressure on the rest of our budget for sure.”

The board’s overall revenue sees 83.92 per cent come from grants.

On the day the province released estimates, the division’s funding from the provincial government increased by approximately $2 million. The total grants from the Ministry of Education increased from $89,758,572 in 2019-2020 to $91,902,256 in 2020-2021. The division’s federal grant remained steady at $21,300. Other provincial grants remained the same at $294,180.

Governance spending increased from $470,410 in 2019-2020 to $601,327 with the largest expenditure going to elections (scheduled for October) with a total of $100,000.

Building operating expenses went up from $93,349 in 2019-2020 to $95,433.

Instructional salaries and benefits increased from $52,007,513 in 2019-2020 to $53,383,945 in 2020-2021. Bratvold explained that regular fixed cost increases also affect the budget.

Total revenues increased from $109,195,830 to $109,888,814 over last year. Total expenditures also increased from $109,195,830 in 2019-2020 to $109,888,814 in 2020-2021.