Catholic board budget gives overview of next academic year

Elisa Nguyen
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Northwest Catholic District School Board presents $29 million in the budget for the next academic school year, an amount that considers an increase in staff.

The board’s superintendent of business, Laura Mills, proposed the budget at the regular meeting on June 17. She said it draws almost one per cent for the board’s accumulated surplus of $238,000.

While the strategic plan considers continuing with many of the great things the board has already been doing, there are a few changes, Mills said. Most of all, it aligns with the board’s strategic plan by focusing on the Catholic faith and achieving academic excellence.

The budget plans to continue with positions to support math, literacy, and re-engagement.

Mills noted that the staff position for reengagement is no longer funded separately with support from COVID-19 funds; however, the board decided that the role needed to stay after seeing the positive impact on students.

Other positions included in next year’s budget include the Catholic co-ordinator, special education, experiential learning, and data curriculum positions. In addition, the budget considers the continued use of resources such as Empowered Reading, Lexia Reading, and Edwin Resources.

Indigenous education continues to be a priority in the board. Mills said one of the highlights for next year is the addition of a second outreach counsellor that will be located in the north end of the board.

“We’ve seen great success with the one that’s located here in Fort Frances serving Our Lady of the Way St. Mary’s, that we decided to put one in the north as well,” she said.

Positions geared toward mental health support include the counsellors, youth workers, behavioural therapists, speech pathologists, and educational systems that support students.

“In public confidence, we did the community survey, and we have taken that feedback that’s in there and built it in the budget for allocation of resources,” Mills said.

Getting into the details, Mills said that revenue and expenditures are up by about $790,000 for next year from the current year’s budget.

Grants For Student Needs, which is the base of the board’s funding, is up only by about $150,000 — a result of a decline in enrolment.

In previous years, the budget benefited from COVID-19 learning recovering funds and higher enrolment rates; however, Mills noted that this year’s budget did see increases through a new funding model for transportation and the early math intervention is now covered by grants.

Another revenue that has significantly increased is due to the Jordan’s Principle, which ensures all First Nations children living in Canada can access the support they need.

“We have a number of Jordan’s Principle applications for EAs to support our students that are up for renewal and we are actually accounting for those in this budget,” Mills said.

Getting into expenditures, Mills said an increase of about $1 million is being looked at for the instructional area.

Expenditures noted an increase in staff for professionals and paraprofessionals, such as for the Indigenous wellness lead counsellor in the north. The board is also encouraged to increase the number of educational assistants.

The expenditure amount allocated for elementary teachers have decreased a bit this year, but Mills said that it is due to a drop in enrolment.

An increased allocation to replace school computers, textbooks and supplies were also noted.

“Overall, we do have an increase of staff of 1.89.”

An increasing enrolment number will help prepare for deficits, Mills noted, even though it may require some adjustments with staffing, and there may be decreased expenses due to extra costs associated with the construction at St. Mary School.

“If suddenly the bumps in the seats come September don’t pan out, then we will be going into our accumulated surplus. But right now it does look like we will be balanced again in the fall,” Mills said.