Catholic board debates but passes budget

·3 min read

The Medicine Hat Catholic Board of Education’s 2022/23 budget and education plan were approved Monday, despite concerns raised over the division’s budget deficit and capital plan released earlier this month.

Trustee Bernie Kinch was vocal following the division’s budget presentation, which estimates a deficit of $29,000 for the 2022-23 school year.

“I think we’ve all gone through rough times (financially) the last little bit – a lot of people more so than others,” Kinch said during the meeting. “I think to be fiscally conservative and have a zero deficit sends a good message that we’re looking after funds in a proper manner.

“I would suggest that we, as trustees, would discuss this and perhaps say, ‘Let’s minimally alter some of these numbers, just to get us down to that zero factor.'”

Kinch made a motion to reduce or remove various expenditures from the budget, however the motion was lost with a two-two vote – Kinch and Rev. Robert Risling in favour, Kathy Glasgo and Dick Mastel opposed. Trustee David Leahy was not present at the meeting due to illness.

“I’m happy with this budget,” board chair Glasgo said. “I certainly recognize a zero budget looks really good. However, I do believe, in the past, we’ve gone into this with this deficit and, mostly, we’ve come out of it with a surplus. So, I’m comfortable with these contingency funds being there and with this just the way it is.”

In a final vote, the board accepted the budget three-to-one, with Glasgo, Risling and Mastel in favour, and Kinch opposed.

MHCBE superintendent Dwayne Zarichny is pleased the budget was passed. Zarichny believes the deficit is “small” enough to allow the division to meet operational demands, as well as any unforeseen circumstances.

“We purposefully built contingencies and left room in a number of different budget areas, so we (will not need to) ask the board for more money,” Zarichny told the News. “We’ll do our best, of course, to not end up in a deficit situation, however leaving room is, from my perspective, the prudent way to move forward.

“I am tremendously excited about this year’s budget. And a large part of the reason for that is our increased enrolment.”

MHCBE saw increased enrolment through most grade levels, as well as in its international education program.

“We are seeing growth throughout the entirety of the jurisdiction,” Zarichny said. “The work we’ve engaged in over the last three years, in terms of promoting our jurisdiction and trying to connect with families, appears to be working.”

While the division recently announced it would be accepting up to 59 Ukrainian students displaced by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Zarichny says those numbers will not affect the school’s funding as it closes out the 2021-22 school year and have not been factored into the upcoming budget, as the students’ placement is not guaranteed for the fall semester.

As well as the 2022-23 budget, the division’s four-year education plan was also approved Monday. The plan focuses on student success through implementation of four strategic priorities, including Catholicity, health and wellness, quality teaching and learning and the Sisters of Charity St. Louis Centre theatre and fiscal literacy space project.

Glasgo, Risling and Mastel voted in favour of the plan, while Kinch voted against.

Kinch said he was not opposed to the plan but felt additional discussion between trustees necessary prior to its approval, as the Sisters of Charity St. Louis Centre theatre and fiscal literacy space project has recently become the focus of the division’s capital plan and will impact on the division’s future.

Approved earlier this month, the capital plan is undergoing review by the province’s Board of Education. If approved, MHCBE will move to construct the Sisters of Charity St. Louis Centre, which could result in the amalgamation of three MHCBE schools.

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KENDALL KING, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News

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