Short $6 million, Regina Public school board faces tough decisions

REGINA – The Regina Public School Division is facing tough challenges: their latest budget has a more than $6 million shortfall.

Part of the problem is the government’s new funding model that doesn’t take into account future students.

“We have about 429 students projected to come into our school division in the coming year and those students are unfunded until the following year and so when we look at that, we have another $3 million that we’re short,” explained board chair Katherine Gagne.

The other $3 million is from “teacher salary increases…and the adjustments to those salaries.” So, the school board will dip into its reserves for $.28 million. It will save money by belt tightening and getting rid of some positions through attrition. $750,000 can also be saved by eliminating noon hour supervision and by busing fewer grade ones, who will now have to walk to school.

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These proposed changes will only come into effect in the 2016-2017 school year and the school board says its aim is to have minimal impact on students.

It’s not just Regina Public facing budget restraints.  Prairie Spirit School Division in Saskatoon went back on their decision to cut the band program after public outcry. They are facing a $7.1 million funding shortfall.

“It is a tight fiscal year, nevertheless all school divisions are getting an almost three percent increase,” said Donna Johnson, assistant deputy education minister.

However, Johnson admits the province isn’t providing the funding for projected enrollment, as it has in years past: “Oil revenues have not been particularly strong this year and all ministries and government-funded organizations, like a health region or a school board are all faced with having to make decisions.”