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More On the Prairie Spirit School Division – but Really, This Is About the Increasing Versions of Reality In This Province.

During last night’s televised circus leadership debate, Cam Broten and Brad Wall got into a slapfight argument over what exactly is going on with the Prairie Spirit School Division.

“You’re misinformed,” insisted Wall.

“Oh AS IF,” was Broten’s reply.

Yeah that’s pretty much the entire hour in a nutshell.

Wall did elaborate somewhat, indicating the PSSD’s funding had increased by 30 per cent over eight years, while enrollment had only risen by 20 per cent. Then he echoed Morgan’s statements, stating that while the division is putting teachers on the chopping block, he “didn’t see any cuts to administration” in the letter that set this whole thing off.

Earlier this week, the Prairie Spirit School Division (PSSD) sent a letter to parents and staff indicating that after years of ballooning student enrollment, and subsequently skimping and scraping to make ends meet, it was finally in the position to have to consider layoffs for the 2016-17 school year.

Don Morgan, who was Education Minister before the writ dropped, and who is currently a Sask Party incumbent candidate, scoffed at the letter, saying it was politically motivated, as opposed to genuine planning and due diligence.

I said here that Morgan’s reaction was wrongheaded, even slightly sinister, and I maintain that assertion.

Morgan also sideswiped PSSD leadership by implying that there were potential mismanagement issues, telling reporters he wants education ministry officials to review of Prairie Spirit’s administration and professional development expenses.

You know what Don, since absolutely nobody seems to be providing anyone around there with actual facts and background on issues, as opposed to, oh…navel lint, allow me to review them for you:

Screenshot (499)

Operational revenue figures taken from the Prairie Spirit School Division’s audited financial statements, which are available on their website. Figures have been rounded off.

 

(I’m sorry, I can’t make these tables any bigger, so if you’re on a phone you’re SOL. I’ll try and figure something out, but in the meantime, and if you’re on a tablet or laptop, if you enlarge them on your screen they’re easier to read.)

Based on this information, Wall and Broten are both right. It appears that there was a slight dip in provincial government’s financing for the 2013-14 school year; however over the course of these five years the provincial government has steadily increased their contribution (property tax and grants) to the division’s funding.

Screenshot (500)

Operational expense figures taken from the Prairie Spirit School Division’s audited financial statements, which are available on their website. Figures have been rounded off.

So yes, there was a massive jump in the PSSD’s Administration cost in 2012-13. That figure was originally recorded as $1.6-million, however the 2013-14 financial statement included this Note regarding the Administration line item and its adjustment:

Screenshot (504)

This doesn’t mean that anyone was hired or fired. It means the accountant moved some staff salaries out of the Instruction (teaching) category and into the Admin category, where they likely belonged in the first place.

So, how does this compare to other school divisions? I checked a few, but only bothered to drop one into a table, as they’re all relatively similar in trends. If you want more comparables, however, Google is your friend.

Screenshot (501)

Operational revenue figures taken from the Horizon School Division’s audited financial statements, which are available on their website. Figures have been rounded off.

Screenshot (502)

Operational expense figures taken from the Horizon School Division’s audited financial statements, which are available on their website. Figures have been rounded off.

See that? The exact same thing happened with Horizon’s 2012-13 Admin expenditure – a big jump. And while there’s no Note included on their 2013-14 audited financial statement, you can see the same adjustment (from Instruction to Administration) that is on the Prairie Spirit School Division’s statement.

You’ll also note that Horizon’s Administration and Governance costs are consistently higher than PSSD’s – even though Horizon has two-thirds the students.

Screenshot (503)

Horizon has actually seen an overall decrease in enrollment since 2010, yet has seen an overall increase in provincial funding. In 2015 Horizon received $11,564 per student from the province (again, via property tax and grants), and Prairie Spirit received $11,000 per student.

No, I don’t have any connections to the PSSD brass. My kids aren’t even in that school division.

I’m just really f**king tired of having no idea where we stand, because as demonstrated last night, we have leaders seemingly more interested in the sound of their own voices, than those of the Saskatchewan taxpayers.

While I’m not pretending this is a forensic analysis, what I know for sure is I’m not seeing anything in the PSSD’s numbers that leads me to believe that they’re making shit up to be difficult.

We’re talking about a measly $3-million shortfall, or a 2.5 per cent increase to PSSD’s funding. Which leads me to wonder why Wall and Morgan are resisting this like my kid does cough syrup.

Am I an accountant? No. But I can read, and I can use an Excel spreadsheet, and I’m tired of having to choose between two versions of the truth on important issues like education.

And that seems like it’s happening more and more lately.

What is going on?

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Categories: Uncategorized

4 replies »

  1. I’m not an accountant by any stretch of the imagination. As a layman, I look at 2014-2015 revenues and see $124 million and in the 2014-2015 expenses I see $116 million. Looks to me, as a layman, that there should be a nearly $8 million surplus. Can you clear this up?

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    • Thanks so much for your comment. A few people have commented on that, and the answer is I don’t know, but I’d encourage you to have a look at their full financial statement for 2014-15. Keep in mind that these operating costs do not include a number of other expenses, including asset maintenance. After a quick glance it looks to me that the surplus was transferred to cover some of those expenses. The point of this post, however, was to present the governance and admin costs, which have been indirectly blamed for the PSSD’s financial woes.

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