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Board passes tough 2022-23 budget

Board June 13, 2022
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As indicated in a message we sent out April 6, we are writing to provide a budget update.

Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools’ Board of Education passed our division’s 2022-23 budget at the board meeting on June 13.

Budgets are usually passed with little attention or fanfare, but education-sector funding has been getting some attention this year—and not necessarily for good reasons. You may have heard news of other school divisions passing their budgets. Inflationary pressures that you and your household face are negatively affecting school divisions too.

Provincial funding has increased. We will receive $3.85 million more than last year, the bulk of which will cover provincially negotiated salary increases. That increase simply has not kept pace with enrolment growth (we expect 400 more students next year) or with rising expenses. We have spent the last few months—or more accurately, years—trying to find ways to be good stewards of the money we receive, to stretch funding, find savings, and maintain the current level of classroom learning and supports. To maintain the status quo, we would find ourselves $3 million short.

Unfortunately, the effects of 2017-18 cuts, and the slow erosion of funding since, have left us with few options. We are at the point where classrooms and students—and you as parents and caregivers—will see the effects of chronic underfunding. Cuts are necessary.

We should be hiring to accommodate growth—400 more students is equivalent to a decent-sized school. We should be increasing supports in areas like English as an Additional Language (we are welcoming more students from abroad—dozens of students from Ukraine alone, with more to come before fall). We should be adding robust supports focusing on mental health and the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of students. Instead, we are faced with reductions in essential services for students.

To help offset some of the increased expenditures, we are using $1.33 million of restricted reserves for short-term expenses to help balance the budget. 

The number of teachers will decrease by 19.5 (full-time equivalent) for 2022-23. Reductions will be accomplished through attrition. For the first time in more than a decade, the elementary Actual Classroom Loading (ACL)—a calculation of students in a school compared to teachers—will increase for some elementary schools. 

Summary of changes to teacher allocations:

  • General Teachers (reduced by 18.1 FTE)
  • EAL (reduced by 0.15 FTE)
  • Student Services/Other (reduced by 1.25 FTE)

Supportive instructional staff will decrease by 3.14% in 2022-23. The allocation of education assistants will be similar to 2021-22 staffing thanks to targeted funding. Some reallocation of current staff to support the number additional students anticipated will be required. 

Centrally held budgets used to support staff and students have been proportionally reduced. 

A lunch supervision fee for elementary students in Saskatoon who stay at school for lunch will be added for 2022-23. The fee will be $70 per year per student, or $7 per month. Half-time kindergarten students will pay $35 per year, or $3.50 per month. Fees will be capped at $140 per family. 

This is an expense that is not covered in provincial operating grants to school divisions. We are no longer able to bear the entire cost of paying staff to supervise students who do not go home for lunch. This cost-recovery fee is expected to bring in about $0.35 million and will pay for staff to supervise students over lunch, which is not a contractual obligation included in salaries. We will offer flexibility to pay month-by-month or for the year, and we will have exemptions for families unable to pay. Fees paid will be eligible for a federal childcare tax deduction.

We understand these are not popular decisions. They are, however, necessary decisions given the level of funding from the Government of Saskatchewan.

For those of you inclined to read more, we have addressed a few common concerns below, and our detailed budget document can also be found on our website.

Yours in Catholic education,
Diane Boyko, Board of Education Chair
Greg Chatlain, Director of Education

Common concerns:


The Minister of Education is on record saying that school divisions are not subject to inflationary pressures. School divisions are not immune to the rising costs that you and your household face. Fuel, heating, electricity, insurance, etc. all cost significantly more, and this reduces our ability to pay for comparable goods and services.

Fiscal Reserves

The Minister of Education has also been quite vocal stating school divisions have vast reserves and should spend those. While it is true all school divisions maintain some reserves—just like your household does to cover unexpected expenses—the level of reserves among the 27 school divisions is not equal. When comparing the size of school division budgets and the amounts of operational reserves, our school division sits in the bottom 20 per cent.  

At Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools, we believe the year we receive your tax dollars is the year we should spend that on educating and serving students—your children. 

We do have reserves in both restricted and unrestricted areas. Restricted reserves are set aside to cover anticipated expenses not covered by the provincial operating grants. Things like resources for curricular renewal (new books and resources when curriculum is updated, which happens regularly) or expenses to run non-school facilities are not covered. We need to put money aside to cover those necessary expenses. Our unrestricted reserves are quite modest and are generally used to pay for necessary expenses when they occur, or when timing of the money coming in to the school division does not align with the expense. Having reserves means we do not need to dip into a line of credit and incur interest and banking fees.

All of the extra federal and provincial funding during the pandemic, some of which we were allowed to carry over from 2020-21 to 2021-22, will be spent at the end of the 2021-22 fiscal year.

We are drawing down our restricted reserves to cover short-term expenditures.

Assuming the minister has a point, and divisions with reserves should spend them, that is not a sustainable approach to education funding. At some point, when reserves are no longer there, the lack of adequate investment will catch up with the education sector and reveal even more severe gaps in funding.

Centralized staff/services

“Why don’t you cut the staff downtown?” is a common retort.

We have.

In 2017-18, several central board office staff positions were eliminated. Those staff went back into schools. The work of remaining board office staff did not go away. Portfolios were expanded and people took on more work. We cannot keep piling more work on fewer people.

Administrative functions are needed to run any organization, especially large and complex ones like school divisions. Administration, which accounts for 2.35% of our overall budget, is responsible for financial oversight and paying staff; transportation planning; integration of provincial curriculum; hiring, training and providing professional development of staff; providing, maintaining and securing IT systems; and various other ways to support the excellent work that goes on in our 50 schools. Good stewardship is important, and we constantly scrutinize expenses through the lens of serving students and supporting learning.

Even with all of that, budgets for centralized office functions will be reduced again. Make no mistake, that will affect what happens (or doesn’t happen) in classrooms.

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