Despite having to pull roughly $2 million from operating reserves to ensure current programming can continue, the Saskatoon Public School Division will hire the equivalent of 35.9 new staff members for the upcoming school year.
The public school board approved its budget of more than $259.4 million at its meeting Tuesday — a decrease of $754,373, or 0.3 per cent compared to last year.
Facing a shortfall of about $11.5 million due to decreased provincial funding and growing student enrolment, the division balanced its budget using its reserves and by making several changes, including out-of-classroom staff changes, a five per cent reduction in school budgets and most central office budget lines, plus reductions in student transportation.
The equivalent of about 30 full-time staff members have been affected.
Although this was the fourth year the division has had to pull from its reserves to balance its budget, it was able to avoid teacher job losses or changes to the pupil-teacher ratio.
“This is my 14th budget,” board chair Ray Morrison noted. “This is by far and away the most difficult budget that this board has had to pass in my tenure at the board table.”
In a press release issued at the meeting, Morrison said pulling from reserves “to make ends meet” is not sustainable.
While he understands the budget may be unpopular and may affect people’s lives, he said the division worked hard to ensure students and the classroom weren’t affected, noting board members “fought and argued” on where to find savings in the face of the provincial budget.
The five per cent cut across non-salary budget lines may have an effect across the division, he added.
“People are going to have to pay more attention to what, when and how they spend the money in the schools and in central office and at the board table.”