Catholic schools predict $355K deficit for next year

·3 min read

The Medicine Hat Catholic Board of Education will start the 2021-2022 school year with an expected deficit of more than $300,000.

“Everyone wants to know, ‘What’s the meat?’ Well, the meat is that we have a deficit budget,” said secretary treasurer Greg MacPherson during a live-streamed budget meeting on Wednesday. “The good news is that this budget can be funded through reserves. Like what occurred last year – we have to seek permission from the minister to access our accumulated operating reserves.

“We will be applying to use $355,565 and we expect to hear permission from the minister before the middle of July.”

MHCBE will request the money from its reserves, as well as depend upon the government granted bridge funding made accessible for this year and next. There will also be re-allocation of funds and grants to make sure all costs are covered for the 2021-22 school year.

The budget for school events and activities has hardly been used in the past year due to health restrictions, and the budget for next year’s events is prudent as well.

A new and hopeful revenue stream comes from a spike in activity within the International Student Program. Although only nine international students participated this year, the program is forecasting close to 40 in the new school year – the funding from which will aid in the mission to balance the budget.

MHCBE has run this program the past few years in a deficit. From the collected deficit officials hope to see a small surplus at the end of this year.

Board members and trustees were also pleased to hear a small projected increase of about 2.4% in enrolment for the coming year.

MacPherson indicated that about 75% of the yearly budget is spent on instruction, and there will also be an increase in budgets for advertising, health and wellness, cyber school and staff recognition.

The budget also shows the average teacher’s salary is down 0.5% year to year.

The 2020-21 year had a larger allotment than needed for substitute teachers; MacPherson says MHCBE expected to end this year in a deficit but has a substantial surplus.

“The opening balance in the upcoming year is in a very favourable position.”

Board chair Dick Mastel offered praise to those behind the budget.

“I’ve been through this budget three or four times, and I’m just amazed at the thoroughness of it and I can’t even imagine the number of hours that it’s taken to put all this stuff together,” said Mastel. “So Greg, to you and to Amanda, and anyone else who had a share in putting this thing together, it’s a monumental pile of work.”

An Education Plan for the next four years was also reviewed with a motion passed in support. The plan indicates MHCBE will strive for excellence by focusing on three core areas: Catholicity, Health and Wellness as well as Quality Teaching and Learning.

“Our faith is the foundation of our division and we want to show our Catholicity through the 5 Marks of Catholic Education each and every day,” reads the education plan. “Health and Wellness is a very important piece to all of our stakeholders and has moved to the forefront due to all the difficulties the pandemic has caused.

“Quality Teaching and Learning has always been our number one goal to strive for and we will continue to provide an excellent education for our students by completing goals in this area.”

Lauren Thomson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News

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