It is with great pleasure that I present this 2017–2018 Budget to my fellow trustees. I believe this Budget reflects our commitment, as a faith-based school system, not only to excellence in education, but to fiscal responsibility in accordance with the Ministry of Education. I also believe that our success in responding to our communities’ needs is reflected in that fact that we are maintaining our enrolment numbers.
Our operating budget of just over $68 million, once again this year, complies with Ministry guidelines in keeping the projected deficit for 2017–2018 at less than 1%. That deficit will be covered by surplus Board funds.
Before I provide some highlights from this Budget, I would like to thank the members of the Budget team who provided their expertise, knowledge and a great deal of time to prepare this document.
The 2017–2018 Budget focuses on a number of key elements of our strategic plan. It also reflects our Board theme for 2017–2018, which calls on us to “sustain safe school environments characterized by warmth, hospitality, good humour and joy,” building on our 2016–2017 theme “to make a difference as faith-filled community builders.”
Regarding our focus on Wellness and Safety in our schools, we have realigned our Mental Health and Wellness priorities with our Safe Schools program under one supervisory officer to better streamline our efforts. We have allocated $600,000 from Ministry funds to enhance staffing, with three Full-Time Equivalent teaching positions, four Education Assistants and other enhancements across the system.
In support of inclusive education goals, we are once again investing approximately $800,000 in Special Education above the funding model, which will go to staff training to help close gaps and ensure success for all. We also are assigning one dedicated lead, who will report to a supervisory officer, for Indigenous Education. We will continue to provide outreach to self-identified Indigenous students, as well as encouraging sensitivity and equity in our schools and with our community partners. Indigenous courses at Bishop Smith High School are offered in Grade 9 visual arts, Grade 10 history and Grade 11 college-level English. St. Joseph’s High School in Renfrew also provides the Grade 9 visual arts course.
To enhance academic achievement, we are targeting Mathematics in line with Ministry of Education goals and our own data. Our strategies include classroom activities, as well as involving whole schools or specific grades or divisions, and professional training led by curriculum personnel and school-based math leads. We also are continuing our investment in learning technology to ensure that our Board provides the latest techniques for 21st century teaching and learning.
We have allotted $2.5 million for capital projects, such as new windows and exterior doors for three schools, electronic signs at three other schools, a heat pump for Our Lady of Grace School in Westmeath, and electric upgrades for two of our schools. We are also planning to address space pressures at St. Joseph High School and the Renfrew-Arnprior family of elementary schools.
Ministry funds allocated to the reduction of greenhouse gas will be strategically used to upgrade to new energy-efficient components in our buildings.
We also look forward to exploring increased daycare opportunities and expanded before and after school programs in areas where they are most needed.
We will continue our partnership with Shaw Woods Outdoor Education Centre to encourage our students in outdoor experiences and stewardship of the environment. As well, we continue to support our music program.
In 2017-2018, we also will continue our conversation about celebrating Catholic education, following up on our Board’s meeting this spring. We look forward to the Institute for Catholic Education symposium, Renewing the promise: Exploring the Critical Role of Catholic Education in Contemporary Society, in November.
I want to thank our administration, principals, teachers, support staff and school communities, particularly our parents and the Parent Involvement Committee, for their support. As trustees, we work to ensure that our students can learn and grow in a safe, respectful Catholic environment that encourages creativity, generosity of spirit and achievement.
With this Budget, I believe that we meet those responsibilities as we work for “schools to believe in.”
I therefore ask my fellow trustees to approve this budget as submitted. Thank you.