The Saskatoon Board of Education has approved its operating budget for the upcoming academic year, with expenditures of $297 million, an increase of $9.3 million over last year.
Provincial government operating funding for the school division increased 2.1 per cent ($5.2 million) for the year, which mainly covers the provincially negotiated salary increase for teachers. However, contracted increases for other staff and rising costs for employee benefits, transportation and inflation are not addressed by this funding, resulting in a $4.5-million shortfall.
"Adequately funding education is more than covering a salary increase for teachers," said Board Chair Colleen MacPherson. "Just like a household, our fuel costs are going up, our insurance and utility bills are increasing, and we have critical repairs to make. We expect to welcome another 300 students this fall but we are not being funded to support the diverse needs of all our learners."
To address the shortfall, the 2022-23 budget includes:
- A 0.5 increase to the division's staffing ratio, resulting in a reduction of 12.7 FTE elementary teaching positions and 6.9 FTE positions in secondary schools;
- Reduction of 1 FTE elementary EAL teacher, 1 FTE elementary resource teacher and 2 FTE discretionary teacher positions;
- Reduction of 3.0 FTE community school coordinators;
- Reduction of 1.0 FTE educational psychologist and 0.5 FTE speech language pathologist;
- Reduction of 1.0 FTE coordinator and 1.0 consultant; and,
Five per cent reduction to school budget lines and 10 per cent reduction to Central Office budget lines.
All affected staff will be redeployed or will finish the term of their contract. Additions in the budget include a 0.5 FTE secretary for each elementary school with enrolment over 600, one new intermediate Functional Life Skills program, $1.3-million to replace critical wi-fi infrastructure across the division, and $100,000 for furniture purchase and replacement. Also, $1 million in targeted provincial funding will be used to hire 21 FTE educational assistants.
To help balance the budget, the school division will be introducing a fee for lunch-hour supervision at elementary schools. Families at elementary schools will be required to pay $100 annually per child if they stay for lunch, to a maximum of $200 per family. Providing supervision over the lunch hour costs approximately
$1.2 million per year. The new fee will offset that cost by approximately $500,000. If the fee is burdensome
for families, accommodations will be available. More information will be provided to families before the
return to school in September.
"Instruction and facilities make up 90 per cent of our operating budget," said MacPherson. "It is impossible to balance this budget without affecting the classroom experience for our students. Education is an important investment in this province's future but without appropriate funding that recognizes inflation, we cannot adequately do our job."