Yearly deficits continue to shrink for three local school divisions

By Scott Roblin
May 30, 2018 - 5:00pm Updated: May 30, 2018 - 7:10pm


MEDICINE HAT, AB – While students have graduation and summer break on their minds, local school board officials are busy wading through budget season.

The Medicine Hat Catholic Board of Education is just one of three local boards cutting costs in the hopes of getting back in the black.

It was a sense of optimism from the Catholic Board on Tuesday night, passing their spring budget for the 2018-19 school year.

Chair Dick Mastel said due to 64 new students expected to join the division, the Catholic Board lowered their deficit to only $59,735.

“Our numbers are above projections, so we're very happy with that,” said Mastel. “That isn't something that's happened a lot in the past years, but it has this year.”

According to Mastel, it’s part of an ongoing effort from the Catholic Board to save money and cut costs without affecting front line staff.

“We’ve had attrition from teachers that have retired that haven’t all been replaced,” he said. “We’ve reconfigured some of our classes, and it’s going through the budget line by line and finding savings where we can find them.”

Capital projects will be taking a back seat after two big builds during the 2017-18 school year.

Modernization is complete at Monsignor McCoy High, while Ecole St. John Paul II School in Southlands will open to students on September 1.

Catholic Board secretary-treasurer Greg MacPherson said that allows more room for general maintenance projects.

“Whether that's roofs, furnaces, flooring, we're very excited to be able to deploy those dollars into those projects,” said MacPherson.

All three local division have either balanced or are close to balancing their budgets, with the Catholic Board going from a $204,982 deficit this time last year to just under $60,000.

SD76 is breaking even once again, as their projected revenue and expenses for the upcoming year both total $90.65 million dollars.

As for the Prairie Rose School Division, they have significantly lowered their projected deficit from $754,777 to $23,375.

Most of the cuts came in the transportation sector with the elimination of four bus routes, as secretary-treasurer Ryan Boser said they want to avoid dipping into reserves as much as they can.

“We wanted to have some financial flexibility going forward to ensure that when things come up, that we can meet those type of expenses or services with the reserves that we have in place,” said Boser.

Davidson said he takes pride in another balanced budget, not having to cut any of their front line staff in the process.

“It's good news in that when you're able to project a balanced budget, it means that there's very limited change in the level of service we provide to our community,” said Davidson.

Some cuts will need to happen for SD76 to make the numbers work including some bus routes and infrastructure projects, but Davidson added it’s a step towards financial stability for educators.

“The fact that all of the jurisdictions in this area are working hard to do what they can do for kids within their budgets, it's a good thing,” he said. “It just makes sense to do.”

School boards in the Medicine Hat area will meet again in the fall to update their 2018-19 budget projections.

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