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Catholic board facing budget deficit

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The Northwest Catholic District School Board received a presentation on its preliminary budget for the 2018-19 school year at the board's montly meeting last Tuesday night.

The report indicates a deficit of $600,000, with $26.21 million in revenue and $26.81 million in expenses.

If the deficit from the preliminary budget remains the same or isn't lowered significantly, it will require Ministry of Education approval because it exceeds one percent of operating allocation.

Over the next few weeks, Superintendent of Business Seija Van Haesendonck will be working with trustees to find areas where they can reduce the deficit.

“We do anticipate bringing [the deficit] down so we'll go back and look and fine-tune some of the areas,” Van Haesendonck noted.

“I'm not expecting to have any large reductions from current year spending but if we budgeted for any increases, those may be reduced back to the status quo,” she warned.

Some $22.98 million of the board's revenue projection comes from grants for student needs.

Another $1.21 million is from deferred capital contributions, $1.07 million comes from tuition fees, a little over $485,000 comes from EPO grants, and $543,000 came from other revenue sources.

As for the expense projections, $16.43 million is spent on classroom instruction, $3.33 million for facilities, and $2.47 million for board administration.

Some $1.43 million is for transportation, $1.58 million for school administration, $1.16 million for teacher consultants, $375,000 for school funds, and just shy of $4,500 for continuing education.

Budget planning begins in January and will be approved by trustees at the board's meeting in June before being submitted to the ministry for final approval.

At the beginning of the budget process, the board's senior team sends out request forms to the schools' various departments to develop an understanding of their priorities for the upcoming year.

They also work on staffing needs based on current enrolment and projected kindergarten enrolment.

The board then looks at any new announcements or formula changes for funding from the ministry.

The budget presentation by Van Haesendonck at last Tuesday's meeting outlined the Ministry of Education's renewed goals for the 2018-19 school year.

These include achieving excellence, ensuring equity, promoting well-being, and enhancing public confidence.

The board's strategic priorities include faith formation, which includes demonstrating Catholic values, increasing parent engagement in faith formation, and building intentional connections between school, home, and parish.

Another strategic priority outlined in the presentation includes increasing student achievement by improving and maximizing opportunities for quality academic programming.

The same strategic priority also aims to ensure staff have the supports and development opportunities to deliver quality academic programming, as well as increase the focus on resiliency and readiness to prepare students for important transitions.

Other strategic priories include student and staff well-being, which will be achieved by building on partnerships with indigenous communities, taking steps to lessen the impact of poverty at school, enhancing mental health support for students and training for staff, and enhancing communication.

The final outlined strategic priority was stewardship and use of resources to help develop a responsive and balanced budget.

Some of the challenges the board faced during the budget process was anticipated utility and other cost increases, changes to school operation grants, transportation costs, and the continued economic challenges in Northwestern Ontario.

Moving forward, the board will run through the budget again and make further decisions regarding staffing and how to reduce the existing deficit.

“We'll have another look at the budget and see if it does make sense to continue to budget the deficit above the one percent operating allocation or see if we want to try to bring it below the one percent,” Van Haesendonck said.

The budget deficit will have to be brought down to around $250,000 to come in at less than one percent of the board's operating allocation.

Van Haesendonck stressed the presentation she gave last Tuesday was very preliminary and that all the figures were subject to change over the next few weeks.

“I certainly do expect to have some changes prior to the June meeting,” she remarked.

The board plans to approve the budget at a meeting in Sioux Lookout on June 16 before submitting it to the ministry for final approval by June 30.

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