Deficit in the millions of dollars

 At the regular Board Meeting June 14,  the Chinook Board of Education approved a budget for the upcoming 2021-2022 school year, with the division facing a shortfall once again. Revenues from grants and other will be $83.35M, which incorporates the $481,795 additional revenue provided by the provincial government.

The total operational expenditures are $90.26M, including salary increases and inflationary costs for insurance, fuel and utilities, resulting in a deficit of $6.9M of which $4.19M will be funded out of reserves to balance the cash budget. This draw on reserves will continue to reduce available resources in future years.

“This was a very difficult budget to approve, as evidenced by the Board’s divided vote,” said Board Chair, Kim Pridmore, “Drawing in excess of $4M from unallocated reserves to balance the budget is just not sustainable. Chinook relies almost completely on provincial grants, which have not kept pace with increasing costs. The Board is gravely concerned that, without significant new funding in future budgets, drastic expenditure cuts that will impact students in the classroom will be inevitable.”

An additional $754,641 was included in expenditures for Chinook’s Learning Response plan, offset by

restricted reserve funds. This funding will assist the division in addressing learning needs and supporting interventions, which have increased during the pandemic. “We are thankful for the additional funds that we are able to use for interventions in September as part of the Learning Response, as well as for mental health supports,” said Mark Benesh, Director of Education, “This allows us to maintain and implement additional supports identified as needed in schools to offset the various impacts of COVID-19. We will continue to keep our focus on student learning along with supporting the health and safety of all students and staff.”

Chief Financial Officer, Rod Quintin noted that the division received Preventative Maintenance and

Repair (PMR) funding for the upkeep of facilities. “On a more positive note, the provision of $2.26M of

Preventative Maintenance and Repair funding enables Chinook to keep our buildings in good condition,”

Quintin stated, “However this is offset by a roughly 16% shortfall in funding for the provision of student transportation services.”

Rural school divisions like Chinook have high fixed costs that require sufficient and adequate resources to continue to deliver quality programming for students. Every year, Chinook conducts thorough reviews of programs, central office, personnel and supports with changes and efficiencies made to reduce expenditures where possible.

In addition to approving the 2021-2022 budget, the Board also passed a motion to request the Government of Saskatchewan to fully return and enable local school board taxing authority to Chinook School Division by the 2022-2023 school year. Chinook has experienced underfunding as a rural school division by the Government of Saskatchewan and has previously sought to address the funding formula inequities with the provincial government and the SSBA. The Chinook Board encourages all Saskatchewan School Boards to fully advocate for students and schools by passing similar motions.

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