The Prairie Spirit School Division is warning parents of potential staff cuts.
In a letter sent out Tuesday, the division claimed it has had to make spending cuts and dip into reserve funds to keep the books balanced in previous years.
The letter stated Prairie Spirit will be $3 million short for the 2016-17 school year without more funds from the province. In the absence of a provincial budget, the division told parents it is looking at chopping as many as 75 full-time positions based on its projections.
Education Minister Don Morgan accused the board of playing politics.
“To do this right now, midway through an election, is pure politics and is unnecessary,” he said to reporters at his campaign office in Saskatoon.
Prairie Spirit board chair Larry Pavloff denied any political motivation for the timing of the announcement.
“All we’re doing is informing our staff and today our parents as to where our budget projections are going,” he said.
Pavloff said the board needs to get the process moving ahead of any cuts, citing a legal requirement to give the labour ministry several weeks’ notice in advance of any layoffs. He said he was also concerned about the impact on staff.
“To be fair to our staff members, we don’t want to be telling people in the middle of May or the end of May that they don’t have work with us for next year,” he said.
Morgan said he spoke with Prairie Spirit’s director of education following the release of the letter.
“I spoke with the director this morning, John Kuzbik, and urged him not to take any further steps and to just wait and see what happens with the election, there’s ample time afterwards,” he said.
A release from the Prairie Spirit School Division said layoff notices would not go out until after the provincial budget.
Pavloff said he hopes the budget delivers enough funding to make cuts unecessary.
Morgan said he’d like to see the board sit down with ministry staff to review expenses and see if they could find other places to cut spending. He said the work could happen alongside a current review of the board’s capital expenses by the provincial auditor. Morgan stressed that he isn’t currently aware of the specifics of how the board spends its money, but he suggested areas like professional development, staff travel and administration could be looked at for cuts.
Provincial NDP leader Cam Broten sent a media statement about the school board’s letter.
“When you have a look at the reality in the classrooms, when you hear the stories, it’s clear that education hasn’t been a priority for the Sask. Party,” he wrote.