MELFORT — Premier Scott Moe called his funding for education “the largest investment in education in the history of Saskatchewan” while visiting Melfort for a cabinet meeting July 17.
“The fact of the matter is, with respect to the relationship, the financial relationship between the provincial government and the school divisions is this: this year there is a larger amount of investment in education, in the operations budget, in the overall budget of the school divisions,” Moe said.
In March 2019, the North East School Division (NESD) received an increase of approximately $300,000 in funding for the operations from the province.
However, the NESD told the East Central Recorder in June that funding had decreased for the school board by about $3 million since the 2015-16 school year.
When asked, Moe said he can’t comment on the funding decrease since 2015.
“But I would say dollars are added into the formulary – it is a formulary that the ministry of education has worked on with the school divisions,” Moe said. “It has been supported by the school divisions with respect to how those dollars are dispersed, as the about $1.9 billion of operational funding are transferred to the school divisions, and it’s done per the formulary that was agreed upon by the formulary and the ministry at that point in time.”
Moe said challenges faced by NESD are not unique to the school division, but added there is a mix of challenges among school boards in the province.
“It’s an investment that we’re tremendously proud to provide on behalf of again, the family, and constitutes that we provide not only to the northeast, but across the province. But listen, we understand there are challenges in the education sector.”
One of these challenges, he said, was the federal carbon tax.
“There are challenges with increasing costs, if you will, due to carbon taxation policy that has been imposed by the federal government.”
The carbon tax came into effect on April 1, 2019.
For the 2019-20 year, the NESD budget has a deficit of about $4.3 million, which will be taken from reserves. In the 2018-19 year the division’s reserves decreased by more than over $2 million.
Wanda McLeod, the division's superintendent of business administration, told the East Central Recorder called the budget “unsustainable.” She said the division is hoping for more funding but if that doesn’t happen they’re going to have to make some “tough decisions for the 2021 year.”
“We understand there is more to do, we’ve replaced – I think we’re at 42 or 44 new facilities, close to 70 new renovations in our schools across the province,” Moe said. “Catching up on a backlog of instructure investment, if you will. A new school going up, not far from here in the community of Rosthern right now. We have more to do on the operational side, we have more to do on the infrastructure side in education and we’re committed to do just that.”