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School board reports “toughest budget year” with estimated $4 million shortfall

Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board is citing its “toughest budget year” as it battles balancing by June with a $4 million shortfall for the 2023-2024 school year.

“This is the toughest budget year that I can recall,” said Nick Pfeiffer, Superintendent of Business Services. “It’s going to be very challenging to present a balanced budget to the Board of Trustees given the changes in funding to school boards.”

Budget planning occurs every year from January to June. School boards are required to pass a balanced budget by June 30. HPEDSB has had deficit budgets for the past two school years, which meant taking from reserve funds to balance the budget.

The Ministry of Education released funding information April 17 stating the projected Grant for Student Needs funding for HPEDSB is $213,616,758, a year-over-year increase of one per cent. An additional $3 million is expected through Priorities and Partnerships Funding for priority initiatives.

The HPEDSB media release Wednesday states funding challenges include the following:

For the past three years, the Ministry of Education has provided school boards with COVID-19 funding. For the current school year, that funding provided HPEDSB with $2.5 million that directly supported over 27 employee positions, including mental health workers. Now, that funding has been entirely removed from the provincial budget.

Temporary funding provided in 2022-2023 for tutoring supports and for the revised math strategy was time-limited and is not expected to continue. This is partially offset by new temporary funding for Ministry of Education priorities in reading intervention and math recovery.

The Ministry of Education is realigning funding to better support Indigenous education priorities. This results in a projected decrease of $1 million in classroom teacher support for Indigenous Studies courses.

The Ministry of Education has developed a new funding model for student transportation which is being implemented for 2023-2024. Although transportation funding has increased from the prior year, it is not sufficient to offset the existing funding shortfall for transportation, nor address the increased enrolment nor the expected increased transportation costs due to inflation. It is expected that the difference between student transportation expenses and funding will continue to be a significant cost pressure for 2023-2024.

Inflation, as measured by the consumer price index (CPI), continues at around 4.5 per cent which impacts transportation costs, building operating costs, and the cost of supplies and services.

Supply costs are salaries and benefits for supply and occasional teachers, educators, and other staff who are replaced when absent. The projected supply cost funding continues to be far below the actual supply cost expenses to replace absent employees. It is expected that the difference between supply cost expenses and funding will continue to be a significant cost pressure for 2023-2024.

The funding information recently received from the Ministry is in the process of being incorporated into a draft budget as part of the revenue projections. Ongoing discussions with the Ministry are underway to clarify details. The draft budget will be refined in May, with a final balanced budget being ready for early June.

Filed Under: Local News

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