Thursday, 28 June 2018 06:11

Chinook School Division 2018-19 budget includes many cost saving measures

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The Chinook School Division’s proposed budget for 2018-19 includes additional staff and cost adjustments to address the existing budget deficit.

A motion was approved at a regular Chinook School Division board meeting on June 25 to authorize administration to submit the budget estimates for 2018-19 to the Ministry of Education.
“There’s always a possibility they could send it back, but it’s highly unlikely,” Chinook School Division Chief Financial Officer Rod Quintin said afterwards. “We’ve been in consultation with them since December. They know our plan and they know we have the resources to fund our $525,000 draw on reserves. So we expect fully that it will be approved.”
There are various measures in the 2018-19 budget to deal with the school division’s existing cash deficit position.
“It was year two of a three-year effort to basically get our cash deficit position to balance,” he said. “We didn’t get all the way there. We’re about a million dollars in a cash deficit position, but about half of that amount we had in a series of dedicated reserves. So we’re still around $525,000 short on cash for the 2018-19 budget that we have to deal with at some point over the next year.”
The school division will be implementing a moratorium on bus replacements for rural routes, but that measure will have future budget implications.
“At some point we’re going to need to spend some money and roughly $800,000 a year going forward past this year to move back into that bus replacement cycle so that we don’t run our buses into the ground and not have any equipment to haul students,” he said.
The efforts to achieve the three-year budgetary targets will require reductions to the instructional budget for 2018-19.
“This time we would have probably made the largest amount of cuts in our instructional budget,” he said. “A little bit around our operations as well. I mean, we’re always trying to find ways to achieve efficiencies in operations, whether its transportation or facilities, but this year the bulk would have been in the instructional area.”
The school division has already implemented an amended staffing formula in preparation for the 2018-19 budget year.
“The important piece is that we did not have to go out and lay off people,” he said. “We were able to achieve this entirely through attrition.”
Director of Education Kyle McIntyre is confident the amended staffing formula will have a minimal impact on instruction in schools. The school division had to review the staffing formula because there were 55 more teachers than the funding received from the ministry for teacher staffing.
“We really wanted to be efficient and we wanted to be lean, but we still want to provide quality programming for kids and opportunities for kids and supports for kids,” he said. “Certainly we weren’t interested in going and finding 55 teachers, because then we would not be able to provide programming. We identified a target that was just under 24 over a two-year period. I think through attrition, so through retirements and resignations, teachers going elsewhere, we probably trimmed about 18 teachers from our staffing complement this year. So really now we’re probably staffed appropriately.”
He emphasized the Chinook School Division still has the lowest pupil-teacher ratio in the province, and staff numbers are sufficient to provide quality programming and opportunities for kids.
“I think we have found the balance where we’re now efficiently staffed, but we still need sufficient resources to continue to operate our system and provide quality programming and opportunities,” he said.
He does not anticipate any further changes to the staffing formula because the school division is not overstaffed now.
“We’re very efficient right now,” he said. “There is absolutely no fat left on any of the bones and so now you have to maintain what we do have to continue to provide quality opportunities for kids.”
According to McIntyre, the school division is on track to achieve the targets in the three-year budget plan and they might even be a little bit ahead of their goals.
“We don’t anticipate we’re going to have any unforeseen or surprise expenditures or cuts,” he said. “I think we’re moving in the direction we need to move, but we need to continue to advocate to the province for sufficient resources to continue to operate our system.”

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Matthew Liebenberg


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