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Cornerstone school board receives final financial report for 2021-22 school year

Public school division finished the 2021-22 fiscal year with a net operating deficit of $5.6 million, which is $4 million lower than the earlier budgeted deficit of $9.6 million.
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The South East Cornerstone Public School Division received a key financial report on Wednesday.

WEYBURN - It’s been a year of challenges for the South East Cornerstone Public School Division, including the financial side of the picture.

Illustrating those challenges, actions and solutions was the job for Shelley Toth, the division’s chief financial officer, who presented the package to the board members during their Nov. 16 open business meeting held in Weyburn.

Toth informed the board members that SECPSD is exiting the 2021-22 fiscal year with a net operating deficit of $5.6 million which is $4 million lower than the earlier budgeted deficit of $9.6 million.

Revenue for the sprawling school division that encompasses 8,300 students in southeast Saskatchewan totalled $106.8 million while expenses registered at $112.4 million.

The revenue received was $4.2 million (4.1 per cent) higher than budget with the bulk of that coming from an additional provincial grant of $3.4 million.

“Total ministry operating grants were $2.1 million higher than budget. There was $794,000 in grant money to recognize increased enrolments,” Toth said.

Another $837,000 was recognized as revenue for expenses paid on behalf of Cornerstone by the Ministry of Education and a further $330,000 for a variety of additional grants unknown at the time the budget was set. There was a further $99,000 assigned for preventative maintenance and renewal.

“Capital grants were $1.3 million higher than budget as the ministry authorized additional funding for the demolition of Haig and Souris Schools,” she said. “Both of these Weyburn schools were closed when the new Legacy Park Elementary School opened in September 2021.”

Tuition and related fees were $207,000 higher than budget due to a hike in enrolment, she explained, while school generated funds were nearly $1 million under budget, reflecting the impact COVID-19 had on extra-curricular activities and school fundraising efforts.

External services revenue was $570,000 higher than budget since grants were received for the Estevan Early Years Family Resource Centre ($331,000) and Jordan’s Principle activities ($137,000). These were unknown at the time the budget was set. Other revenue was $102,000 higher than budget from increased cafeteria sales and teacherage rental revenue as well as the gain from the sale of a teacherage in Bienfait.

Other revenue increases came in the form of $720,000 from insurance reimbursements for roof damages from windstorms and a water line break, and $109,000 from the sale of the school bus garages in Radville and Weyburn. Rebates and reimbursements were either higher than budget or unknown at the time the budget was being prepared.

“Total operating expenses were only $251,000 higher than budget, however there were still some areas of significant variances,” Toth noted.

The governance (board) expenses were just $97,000, almost 22 per cent under budget.

Toth explained that school community councils were budgeted for just under $70,000 but there had been a change in the ministry’s accounting policy that ended up moving actual expenses of $62,666 to the instructional portfolio.

Board member professional development was $24,000 under budget while administration expenses were $115,000 higher than what was budgeted.

Toth added that salaries, benefits and supplies were generally higher due to the pandemic when additional staff was hired to support contract tracing, testing and other related activities.

Instructional expenses were only $481,000 under budget (less than one per cent). This was brought about by the fact not all positions were filled and professional development and student-related expenses and travel were restricted due to COVID.

Instructional aids costs were higher than budget as the budget for computer supplies was in capital, however, not all items met the dollar threshold for capitalization and therefore are expensed here.

Plant and maintenance operations were $1 million over budget (5.8 per cent) due to expenses incurred during the insurance claims, renovations for the family centre and the demolition of Haig School that were not in the original budget. All of these, however, were offset by additional revenue, Toth said.

Changes to accounting standards added the amortization of tangible capital asset retirement obligation, she added.

Student transportation expenses were $105,000 under budget, but the cost of fuel was higher than budget but that was offset by other areas that came in under the budgeted figure.

The aforementioned school generated fund losses on the revenue side were matched by a $1 million saving on the expense side, all related to the pandemic.

The pre-kindergarten program was $84,000 over budget and external services expenses of $367,000 were higher than budget, reflecting costs associated with the grants for Early Learning Intensive Supports (ELIS), Jordan’s Principle and the Estevan Early Years Family Resource Centre.

An additional $3.4 million was added to the capital assets to accommodate and include the purchase of eight new school buses and two used buses for wheelchair accessibility that came with a $1.06 million cost.

The additional added costs came by way of $649,000 for computer hardware and audio/visual equipment, $480,000 for the purchase of an attached building to the Moosomin bus garage, $342,000 for furniture and equipment (school based furniture, playground equipment, caretaking and facilities maintenance). There was also $99,000 spent on the purchase of two trucks and $38,000 for the purchase of property in Moosomin to support access and storage for the expanded bus garage.

At the end of the report, Toth informed the board the division stood with an unrestricted surplus of $3.8 million, down significantly from the approximate $22 million the division had carefully husbanded for several years for future use following amalgamation in 2006.

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