Monday, 12 June 2017 04:19

Holy Trinity Catholic School Division deals with difficult 2017-18 budget

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The Holy Trinity Catholic School Division (HTCSD) will maintain staffing levels in classrooms for the 2017-18 school year, despite a reduction in provincial funding.


The school division recently completed a challenging budget planning process and the board approved the 2017-18 budget at a regular board meeting, May 15.
“It was very difficult in getting to where we wanted to be, because where we wanted to be was to be able to maintain all of the services and all the programs that we presently have, and we would have needed the funds that we got this last year to be able to do that,” HTCSD Director of Education Geri Hall told the Prairie Post.
The school division’s operating budget for 2017-18 is $876,780 less than the previous year, which represents a funding reduction of 4.2 per cent.
“There was a new funding distribution model that was brought forward or implemented as of this budget year,” she mentioned. “So it’s kind of difficult to be able to compare it exactly to last year because it’s a different model altogether.”
The changes that will be implemented to accommodate the smaller budget will mostly have an impact on the division office.
“The board in January had given us some very strong principles that they wanted us to follow when we were looking at our cuts and those principles centred around protecting classrooms,” she said. “That’s what we used as our mandate to keep our pupil teacher ratio the same, to maintain that, and to be able to assure that the services that we have in our classrooms would be not impacted greatly by this budget. So most of our cuts would have happened at the division office.”
All activities and functions at the division office were therefore carefully scrutinized to find savings on the different budget lines.
“We looked at our staffing in division office, we looked at the programs that we provide to our schools and all of our departments had to take a bit of a cut,” she said. “So every department that we have in our division office will see a change in some of their workload moving into next year because we had to do a bit of a reorganization.”
These changes at the division office will have an impact on the roles of about eight people, but there were no layoffs.
“It was all redeployment,” she said. “We were very fortunate that we were able to fill some retirements with people here at the division office. … No one on a permanent contract had to be laid off.”
In some cases, it will mean that division staff on a permanent continuing contract and with a teaching background will return to classrooms.
“There are some other positions at the division office that would have less time,” she noted. “So they might have got moved from a 0.8 FTE, which is a full-time equivalent, to maybe a 0.6.”
The HTCSD will implement changes to the transportation arrangements for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students in Moose Jaw that will result in a cost saving of about $35,000.
“We are moving towards a full-day kindergarten every second day as opposed to half-day kindergarten, and this will mean that we will no longer have noon hour transportation or busses on the road at noon hour,” she said. “With pre-kindergarten next year we’ll transport children either to the program in the morning or home at the end of the day. We will no longer be transporting our pre-kindergarten students in Moose Jaw at lunch hour.”
The change to full-day kindergarten in Moose Jaw will not result in any adjustment to the number of instruction hours, which will remain at 475 hours per year, but it will be for the full day every second day.
“So it will be either Monday, Wednesday and alternate Fridays, or Tuesday, Thursday and alternate Fridays,” she explained. “We run this program already in our Shaunavon and Swift Current schools and also in our French immersion school here in Moose Jaw, but now we’re going to apply that to all of our schools in our entire division.”
The maintenance of infrastructure is an ongoing priority for the HTCSD board, and there have not been significant cuts to that budget item for 2017-18.
According to Hall, it was a significant achievement to protect the quality of education provided to students, despite the reduced budget.
“We would certainly like to assure all of the people who choose Holy Trinity classrooms for their children for the upcoming school year that we're doing everything we possibly can to maintain the quality of education that we’ve been able to provide in the past, and I think the board has done a remarkable job trying to do so,” she said.
That task to avoid any impact on the classroom will become even more challenging if the HTCSD will have to deal with another budget squeeze in the future.
“It would be extremely challenging and extremely difficult to be able to protect the classroom if we have to experience another cut of this size,” she said.

Read 765 times Last modified on Thursday, 08 June 2017 09:20
Matthew Liebenberg

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