Despite challenges from a shortfall in provincial funding, the Light of Christ Catholic School Division managed to pass a balanced budget for the new school year at its recent board meeting.
The school division received a 5.4 per cent reduction in grant funding from the province, consistent with many cutbacks experienced through school divisions in Saskatchewan as a result of the province’s austerity budget.
“It was an extremely difficult process but our planning for this budget began far before Christmas,” chief financial officer Jordan Kist said. “We went through an exercise where we prepared four different budgets this year. We were well advised by the Ministry to come up with some contingency plans in the event we saw a significant reduction of funding. We did. We had four plans in place we were ready to enact when the [provincial] budget was dropped on March 22. It was difficult, of course, but we were informed it could be tough and it was.”
The board approved the final version of the budget at Tuesday’s meeting.
The school division had to reduce its costs by just over $1 million as a result of the provincial funding shortfall.
Light of Christ will be reducing some staff, primarily in the central office, to find savings, and so far hasn’t had to lay off any professional teaching staff or support staff to lower numbers.
“We looked at attrition basically. Any retirements we had or people who were leaving for whatever reason we chose not to fill those positions this year, and basically work with what we already had,” Director of Education Cory Rideout said.
The division will be reducing one superintendent position following a staff retirement.
It will be taking away 8.9 full-time teacher positions. From that amount, 3.5 positions will be coming from central office and the remainder from schools.
“The central office took the brunt of the cuts,” Rideout said.
The division doesn’t anticipate the staff reduction will impact classrooms much, saying while classroom sizes may increase, the results will be negligible.
“I don’t foresee any issues with regard to class sizes,” Rideout said.
Along with teaching positions, a number of resource centre employees and educational assistants have decreased.
The school division is receiving a 14 per cent reduction in its transportation funding from the province.
The division will actually be spending 12 per cent less on transportation for the upcoming school year.
“We have made reductions to align our operations as close as we can to the funding formula,” Kist said. “However, our board thought it was important to seek out a transition approach for at the very least one year to ensure some services are in place for next year.
“Come 2018-19, we are going to undertake significant levels of consultation with our partners, and with our parents and stakeholders to ensure, in all of this, we want to make sure kids are getting to school and achieving,” Kist added.
While it is still determining plans, the division will be reducing some service so students may have longer bus routes, while some routes may be reduced. The division is planning a transition year “to ensure students have a soft landing" according to Kist. Staff is working with its busing contractor to come up with a strategy to keep any reductions to a minimum.
The division plans to contact parents with more details before implementing any changes.
The school division isn’t planning any significant capital projects in the year ahead, also to save costs.
“I have to compliment our board. They did a lot of work around this in terms of getting a solid budget approved,” Rideout said. “And Jordan [Kist] did the bulk of the work on this. It was a tough budget but at the end of the day I am confident we still have the resources in place to provide an excellent education to those who choose to come here. I’m proud of the board and the staff here for the work that was done.”
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