It was a good news, bad news financial report that landed on the conference room round table at the South East Cornerstone Public School Division’s head office on Nov. 21.
Shelley Toth, the chief financial officer for the pre-kindergarten to Grade 12 school division that serves over 8,300 students, noted that the mixed bag of financial figures and results bore some optimistic tones as well as some negative vibes.
She presented the results to the division’s board members during their monthly open business session in Weyburn.
The 2017-18 fiscal year resulted in revenues of $102.1 million while expenses came in at $106.4 million, leaving the division with a net deficit of $4.3 million.
“This is higher than the budgeted deficit of $2.2 million,” Toth told the board members.
The higher than anticipated deficit was the result of the one-time transfer of $3.8 million in education property tax receivables to the provincial government, effective Jan. 1.
This transaction completed the action plan implemented by the provincial government a couple of years ago that shifted the property tax imposition and collection process directly to the provincial government, meaning the school divisions around the province no longer collect taxation revenue.
Another significant loss was the $751,000 on tangible capital assets, with the majority of that being the $735,000 in assets that were lost with the removal of the Weyburn Junior High School after it was demolished earlier this year.
“Capital asset additions are expensed as amortization over their useful lives (50 years for schools), and Weyburn Junior High had not been fully amortized, so that amount had to be expensed at the time of disposal,” she said.
A $1 million decrease in capital grants was also noted in the report. The budget had included $1.3 million for the design of a new elementary school in Weyburn that was received the previous year. Funding for preventative maintenance and renewal projects around the division was $324,000 higher than budget.
On the bright side, total revenue exceeded expectations by $1.4 million or 1.4 per cent above budget. The division received a $1.7 million increase in its provincial operating grant that reflected the Sept. 30, 2017, enrolment reconciliation, the property tax reconciliation for the previous year and additional mid-year funding.
There was a $749,000 increase in other revenue reflecting the money received for an insurance claim, an insurance rebate from the Saskatchewan School Boards Association and higher than expected interest income.
On the other hand, there was a $1 million decrease in capital grants. The budget had included $1.3 million for the design of a new Weyburn elementary school that had been received the previous year.
When it was all accounted for and audited, Toth reported total expenses were $3.6 million over budget or 3.5 per cent.
Salaries and benefits again accounted for the majority of the division’s expenses at $74.2 million or 70 per cent of the total operating expenses. This was pretty well on the budget target, Toth said, varying by only 0.6 per cent ($432,000 under budget).
Goods and services expenses amounted to $20.1 million, which excluded the $3.8 million transfer of the property taxes and the loss on disposal of capital assets that account for 19 per cent of the division’s operating expenses. These expenditures were under budget by 2.8 per cent ($578,000).
During the past fiscal year, Cornerstone added tangible assets in the form $573,000 for five new school buses; $809,000 for furniture and equipment that included a dust collection systems for vocational shop programs in Estevan; plus $202,000 for playground equipment that was fundraised at the school levels at Hillcrest School, as well as Macoun, Stoughton, Rocanville and Moosomin’s MacLeod School.
Just over $950,000 was spent in acquiring computer hardware and audio-visual equipment and $98,000 in construction hold back funds were released to the construction contractor for the Weyburn Comprehensive School expansion project.
Another $1.5 million was spent on roofing projects for eight schools or other buildings owned by the school division.
Toth said that $2.2 million in assets are now under construction for the design of the new Weyburn elementary school that will be amortized over 50 years, once it goes on stream in a couple of years.
She noted the financial report had been reviewed by the provincial government as well as audited by the division’s independent auditors, and the annual report, which also contains detailed financial information, had been sent to the province for final review before it could be released to the general public.