• Board passes 2017-18 budget

    Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools' Board of Education passed its 2017-18 operating budget at the public board meeting on June 26—the last meeting before the end of the 2016-17 school year. The $179 million budget, down $1.2 million from the previous year, will be submitted to the Ministry of Education for approval.

    Since the Government of Saskatchewan's budget was delivered in March, the board has been grappling with the reality of having less money for next year while still opening six new schools and welcoming an estimated 548 more students. After reduced revenue, growth and inflationary costs are considered, the division's accumulated shortfall is $9.7 million, or about $400 less per student—a 3.9 per cent drop in per-student funding.

    "As a board, we accept the responsibility of the hard decisions we've had to make for our division, but we protest the circumstances that have pushed us into a corner," said Board of Education Chair Diane Boyko. "We would not find ourselves in this position if we were funded adequately to offer the education we believe our students deserve."

    Actions taken to balance the 2017-18 budget include:

    ​- Significant reductions in governance expenditures – 32 per cent.

    - Decrease level of transportation service – increased walking distances and combining services with our sister boards in the areas within our division. This is expected to save the division $1 million.

    - Reduce centralized supports and administration, such as learning consultants – 16 FTE removed and/or moved to accommodate growth.

    - Reduce enhanced services and supports outside of our funding mandate – various reductions in the levels of resources allocated to services and supports. Most significantly, 14 FTE through­ the discontinuance of the Aboriginal Student Retention Worker program.

    - Reduce operational budgets in various centralized departments such as learning services coordinators.

    - Stretch existing resources in various employee classifications to accommodate growth. For example, office coordinator and caretaker allocations increased 5 FTE; however operating 6 additional schools would normally require approximately 19 additional FTE in these positions.

    Because of the significant work to reduce expenditures and shift resources, and by adding seven FTE teaching staff, the division is able to maintain stable classroom loads while opening 38 more elementary classrooms.

    "Budget deliberations this year have been like no other," said Boyko. "It's been tremendously difficult on staff who passionately serve students and families. They always see that more can be done to help students and ensure success."

    Boyko also said that it's difficult for staff to know there will be fewer services in some programming areas. But she noted, "We have great educators who are focused on providing an exceptional educational experience for our students. Parents expect no less, and I know we're up to the challenge of delivering despite financial challenges."

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