Catholic schools, including St. Augustine in Ponoka, will have less reserves for this year after the provincial government decided to hold the line on education spending in its Oct. 24 budget.
St. Thomas Aquinas Roman (STAR) Catholic School Division was hit with a loss of $2.1 million in funding, after the province cancelled three grants, which was partially replaced by one-time transition funding. Those grants were previously to help reduce class sizes and lower transportation costs for parents. The division, like others across the province, was also hit by a huge 174 per cent jump in insurance premiums.
According to a Nov. 22 release from STAR, the deficit works out to $510 per student in the division.
At its board meeting on Nov. 20, school trustees approved taking $1 million from reserves to help mitigate the affects of the funding shortfall. Trustees then tasked administration with finding the money to cover the remaining $1.1 million, which was done through efficiencies in administration and central office supports plus accessing funds from reserves held by various schools.
“The board did not wish to lessen the shortfall by raising school fees or reducing staff, especially at this point in the
school year,” said STAR board chair Michelle Lamer in the release.
“Unfortunately, utilizing our reserve funds in such a significant way will not be possible after this year, and we will be forced to consider other options.”
The release also explains that the board is grateful to have been able to maintain current staffing levels, though the division will continue to evaluate expenses and search for further ways to maximize efficiencies.
“This is certainly a distressing position to be in, and we understand divisions across the province are feeling similar effects. The board of trustees has no doubt about the amount of work to be done and the difficult decisions to be made. As always, we will make those decisions with the best interests of our students, staff, and their families in mind,” stated Lamer in the release.