SE Cornerstone releases year-end financial report

Submitted by Norm Park, Contracted Reporter for SECPSD

Shelley Toth, the chief financial officer for the South East Cornerstone Public School Division spent some time with the division’s board members on Nov. 18, walking them through highlighted details of the most recent annual financial report.

article continues below

She noted near the end of her presentation that in spite of all the financial changes made necessary due to circumstances surrounding the pandemic, the division has emerged relatively unscathed.

The financial wrangling was extensive on many fronts, the board members learned as they viewed the details.

The 2019-20 fiscal year resulted in revenues of $118.7 million while expenses amounted to $104.6 million for a net surplus of $14.1 million, she reported. That is $6.3 million higher than the budgeted surplus of $7.8 million.

This was mainly due to higher than budgeted capital grant revenue for the construction of the Legacy Park Elementary School in Weyburn and lower than budgeted expenditures due to operational changes that were implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The total revenue was $2.9 million higher than anticipated in the budget. Toth explained that variances on the revenue side included a $3.2 increase in grant revenue, mostly for the Legacy Park School.

“Funding is provided as expenses are incurred which were higher than estimated in the budget. Operating grant revenue was $300,000 higher than budget due to higher than projected enrolment. The grant for drivers’ education was $200,000 lower than budget as this program was suspended for part of the year due to COVID-19,” she said.

There was also a decrease of $720,000 in school-generated funds, again, due to the pandemic that shortened the school year.

Funds for First Nations’ programming through the federal Jordan’s Principle project came in at $166,000 and that was higher than budgeted, Toth said.

There was an increase of $100,000 for an early learning and intensive support pilot program from the provincial Ministry of Education. “Unspent funds for these programs have been identified as restricted within our accumulated surplus,” she said.

Decreases in revenue were realized in external services by $79,000, and the respite portion of Jordan’s Principle program, which was $137,000 higher than budget, while other areas such as cafeteria revenue was down by $32,000 and the fact that the sale of two teacherages for a possible gain of $175,000, did not occur.

Operating expenses were down 3.1 per cent or $3.4 million, Toth reported.

One of the major variances was the $1.9 million under budget for salaries and benefits while substitute salaries were $1.1 million under budget, as a result of the closure of schools before the conclusion of the official school year.

Goods and services costs were also down by $941,000 with $749,000 of this being attributed to COVID-19, Toth said.

Tangible capital assets brought into the school division included $1 million for nine school buses and another $243,000 for six other vehicles; $673,000 for furniture and equipment which included $173,000 in furnishing and equipment for the new bus garage in Weyburn and $128,000 for caretaking and facilities maintenance equipment.

Toth also spoke of the $17.7 million for assets under construction, with $15 million of that for the Legacy Park Elementary School and $2.6 million for the Weyburn bus garage along with $35,000 for a playground at Wawota School.

“The division ended the fiscal year with an accumulated surplus of $160.5 million, consisting of $123.8 million in tangible capital assets ($141.6 million in assets less $17.8 million in debt owing on assets).

There is also $3.3 million in restricted Ministry funding for future maintenance and renewal projects to maintain division facilities and $7.3 million in designated assets for specific use, with a good portion of that designated for Legacy Park Elementary School and just under $2 million in COVID-19 related savings that are restricted for future capital purchases.

In total, Toth said there was $26 million in unrestricted surplus and that is a reduction of $4.4 million from the previous year.

The financial statements that have been officially audited will now be submitted to the provincial Ministry of Education for acceptance and that will lead to the release of a final annual report.