The South East Cornerstone Public School Division has found itself looking at a budget deficit.  

At the division’s board meeting this past Wednesday, the budget that was tabled had a deficit of $6.29 million. As a result of the deficit, it will mean a number of cuts to the teaching staff, as well as non-teaching staff. 

It was explained that the number of teachers will be reduced by 21.80 full-time equivalent positions due to the shortfall in funding, with one literacy consultant/coach position and one curriculum consultant/coach also being cut. The non-teaching staffing will be reduced by 11.46 full-time equivalent positions.  

The only exception will be educational assistants. There will be an increase of seven full-time equivalent positions. This was made possible due to a restricted grant from the provincial government. The positions will include community liaisons, psychologists, information systems, library technicians, caretaking and carpentry roles. 

During the meeting, SECPSD’s chief financial officer, Shelley Toth, explained that a balanced budget would not be possible. The only way to make up for the shortfall would be through an increase in provincial funding. This is due to all the education portion of property taxes going to the provincial government. This leaves no real way for the division itself to find more revenue, as they are limited in their revenue sources. 

“A balanced budget was not obtainable as the funding received from the Government of Saskatchewan was not enough to cover increased costs for salaries and benefits or general inflation,” Toth explained in her report to the board. 

The budget has the revenues into the SECPSD at $106.7 million, with operating costs at $113 million. There is also $2.3 million in capital expenditures included in the budget.  

Of the revenues, $101.2 million comes from the provincial government. School-generated fundraising comes in at $3.1 million, with $1.2 million from tuition fees and $1.2 million from other sources.  

The largest part of the expenditure is the salaries of the staff. They total $89.85 million in the budget, down by roughly a million. If the staffing reductions were not planned, the budget would have come in $2.3 million higher.  

“We’re just not buying as much, but paying more,” said Keith Keating, the incoming director of education, and current deputy director and manager of human resources.  

Keating explained that it was expected many of the positions lost would be handled through general attrition. It is hoped that there will not have to be actual layoffs, but the difference will be accommodated through resignations, retirements or transfers outside of the division. 

Deficit budgets aren’t a new situation for the SECPSD. Since 2015-16, a deficit budget has been prepared every year due to decreases, or minimal increases, in funding from the provincial government.  

The provincial budget, passed earlier this year, saw the amount of money for education throughout the province, including post-secondary, increase by just 1.2 percent. For the 27 school divisions across the province, the increase amounted to $29.4 million in total, which was 1.5 percent more than the previous budget. The amount each school division receives each year is based on projected student enrollment.  

The funding increase of 1.5 percent for the operating funding for the school divisions comes as the rate of inflation in Saskatchewan was up by 5.9 percent in April of this year.