The effect of staffing cuts has been lessened in Wolf Creek School Division as it projects a more positive financial picture in its mid-year budget review.
Despite projecting itself as having to make do with $4 million less in provincial funding, the school authority sees itself as remaining financially healthy at the end of the budget year, buoyed by $8 million in operating reserves. That reserve fund has grown rather than shrunk in the last two years, with a surplus of $300,000 in 2012-13 a welcome end result after the division foresaw a deficit of $2 million last year at this time.
The division enjoyed higher revenues than expected in 2012-1,3 thanks to enrolments that topped conservative estimates and, despite spending more on classroom instruction, the significant cutting of plant operations and maintenance spending. The division also received for the first time money it should have been getting all along.
“We were up substantially in our transportation grants and that was due to a more thorough identification of people that we could have been claiming that we haven’t claimed in the past. Under the transportation grant, (students) don’t have to be accessing the service but can be eligible for funding. … A lot of kids in high school will drive their own vehicles. We missed out on that,” said secretary/treasurer Joe Henderson.
When the division introduced its 2013-14 budget in May, shortly after the provincial budget outlined funding cuts for education, a deficit of $1.6 million was projected and 40 teaching and support staff full-time equivalent positions were slated to be eliminated.
With enrolment declines not coming to fruition, however, the equivalent of seven teaching and 10 educational assistant positions were added back.
Henderson said the new provincial contract with teachers that freezes salaries for three years has helped, saving the division approximately $1 million. So have the division’s reserves. “The impacts of staffing reductions, etc., would have been magnified had we not been healthy in our reserves structure. It does allow us to rise through some of the troughs,” he said.
The division’s adjusted budget now predicts a deficit of $569,000 for the year, to be covered by reserves.
Higher student numbers mean the division will receive an additional $800,000 from the province and $128,000 more from the federal government for First Nations on-reserve students who attend Wolf Creek schools.
The adjusted budget for 2013-14 sees revenues at $84.3 million and expenses at $84.8 million. Revenues for the last fiscal year were $86 million and expenses were $85.7 million. Based on its budget, the division will spend about 76 per cent of its total expenditures on instruction this year, down from 79 per cent in 2012-13.
The division is expected to fund 403 certified instructional staff this school year and 357 other staff.