In Tuesday’s provincial budget, it was announced the funding for the 27 school divisions in Saskatchewan would receive $1.96 billion, an increase of $19.2 million, or 0.99 percent, from the previous budget. The increase also includes fully funding a two percent salary increase for teachers, as part of the most recent collective bargaining agreement.
For some school divisions, this will result in a decrease in funding from the last budget. One of those divisions is the South East Cornerstone Public School Division. According to the Chief Financial Officer for the SECPSD, Shelley Toth, the operating grant will be $1.1 million less than what was received for the 2020-21 school year.
“There were no adjustments made to the budget for inflation, or for wage increases for other staff, so we will be looking at a deficit budget for next year,” Toth explained to Discover Weyburn. She added the division doesn’t have any choice but to have a deficit, as other options that were available to public school divisions in the past, such as increasing property taxes, have been in the hands of the provincial government since 2009.
“We don’t have the ability to increase... to find revenue outside of the grant that we’re given from the government,” Toth pointed out.
While the school division will look for ways to manage the $1.1 million shortfalls from the previous year, they have been able to receive funding from the province in terms of COVID-19. Toth said the division has applied for, and received funding, to cover a number of expenses that have been incurred as a result of the pandemic, and there are assurances this won’t be ending.
“My understanding is, that support’s going to continue, so I don't have any concerns right now about them providing support for those additional costs going forward,” Toth related. “Like I said, this past year, they’ve been very supportive.”
In the provincial budget, it was also explained the province will be increasing the mill rate for property taxes in the coming year, with the increase for the average homeowner coming out to roughly $18 per year.