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Cornerstone school division recorded deficit in 2022-23, financial statements show

The South East Cornerstone Public School Division posted a $5 million deficit in 2022-23, according to financial statements released at the November meeting.
South East Cornerstone head office
South East Cornerstone Public School Division building

WEYBURN - The South East Cornerstone Public School Division's board took a long look at its audited financial statements during the Nov. 22 meeting.

Shelley Toth, the chief financial officer for SECPSD, informed the board members that while the net deficit was lower than what was originally expected and budgeted for, it was still $5 million during the past fiscal year, while they had budgeted for a shortfall of $6.3 million.

Toth noted that for the 2022-23 fiscal year, revenue was $108.3 million while expenses amounted to $113.3 million.

She also explained through the use of a graph how the division’s once-healthy, internally-restricted and unrestricted surplus had once been as much as $32.3 million. It now stood at just over $17 million following five consecutive years of having to rely on accumulated surpluses to save the day on the school division front.

Toth noted that when it came to school division financial statements, variances are very common. Funding and expenditures are usually not set in stone at any given time and they move with the times, needs and population (enrolment) shifts.

But given all that, she reported that total revenue was about $222,000 (0.2 per cent) higher than budget, which was considered to be very close computations in the world of financial statement preparations embraced by the provincial education ministry.

Grant revenue, Toth said, was $987,000 lower than budget but other ministry and provincial grants were higher than budget and included such items as dollars for invitational share services initiatives with Indigenous partners, as well as a mental health capacity program through the Saskatchewan Health Authority and recruitment funds for French teachers.

Capital grants were reduced since the demolition costs for the Souris School in Weyburn were significantly lower than original estimates.

Tuition and related fees were $219,000 higher than budget, thanks to higher than expected enrolment for students residing on a First Nation.

On the other hand, school-generated funds were $341,000 under budget but well above previous years when the COVID-19 pandemic was instrumental in the closure or severe reductions in school-based, revenue-generating activity. It was also noted though that expenses associated with school-generated funding, were $301,000 under budget, consistent with the revenue side of the picture.

External services revenue came in $289,000 higher than budgeted, with additional revenue coming in for the Estevan Early Years Family Resource Centre and Jordan’s Principle programming.

Additional, unanticipated revenue amounted to $983,000, with the majority of that variance coming from additional interest revenue due to the increase in the prime interest rate.

Operating expenses, Toth said, were $1 million (0.9 per cent) lower than budget.

Significant variances on that side of the ledger included instructional expenses. A large portion of the expense file is instructional payments and they were $797,000 under budget. This was due to vacancies not filled and unused contingencies, while instructional aids were higher than budget as were supplies and services.

Plant operation and maintenance expenses were $239,000 over budget as additional salary costs were incurred to replace staff on leave. Building operating expenses, however, were under budget as a result of the installation of more efficient lighting systems that kept electricity costs down.

Student transportation expenses were $448,000 under budget as a result of lower than budgeted costs for repairs and maintenance as well as contracted transportation.

External services expenses were $288,000 higher than budget, reflecting costs associated with additional grants for the family centre and Jordan’s Principle.

In the area of tangible capital asset development, Toth said that $65,000 was added to the file to represent land improvements at Spruce Ridge School to accommodate the outdoor amphitheatre.

There was also $3.66 million spent for the purchase of 30 new school buses and another $38,000 for two used vans, plus $308,000 for furniture and equipment that included school-based furniture and equipment ($149,000) and $105,000 for transportation equipment and another $45,000 for playground equipment at Hillcrest School in Estevan. Another $23,000 was spent on caretaking and facilities maintenance equipment.

A further $657,000 was spent on computer hardware and audio-visual equipment.

The division ended the 2022-23 fiscal year with an accumulated capital surplus of $151 million. The previous year it had been listed at $156 million.

The unrestricted surplus at this stage of operation is currently $3.6 million.

Chairwoman Audrey Trombley and the board members thanked Toth and her associates for the extensive work that went into the preparation of the report. It has since undergone careful scrutiny by the division’s appointed auditors and is now being forwarded to the Ministry of Education for final approval.