The financial recovery plan, passed by the board earlier this year, is attempting to eliminate a $4.2-million accumulated deficit by 2015-2016.
“Ministry staff have reviewed the board's Multi-Year Financial Recovery Plan and the plan has been approved,” said Assistant Deputy Minister of Education Gabriel Sékaly in the Sept. 30 letter, addressed to Sudbury Catholic director of education Catherine McCullough.
“We are encouraged to see an attainable plan is in place to resolve the board's accumulated deficit position by the end of 2015-2016.”
However, Sékaly went on to say that as the board's enrolment forecasts in the past have been “optimistic,” close monitoring of enrolment is important, even though the review process has been improved.
Given that funding is tied to enrolment, overly optimistic enrolment projections are one of the reasons the board ended up with a deficit last year.
“So what they're saying is don't get caught like you did before,” said Sudbury Catholic board chair Jody Cameron, speaking to Northern Life after the board's Oct. 15 meeting.
“Be more conservative, be more accurate. That way you don't project too high, expecting too much revenue, and then it doesn't come in at the end of the year, and you've overspent.”
Sékaly also said given that supply teacher cost reductions have been assumed in the plan, close monitoring of this area is also important.
Cameron said Sudbury Catholic's use of occasional teachers covering for permanent teachers calling in sick is higher than the provincial average.
He said the board has realistically budgeted for this item so it doesn't go overbudget in this area. However, he said he's encouraged that the board's secondary teachers are calling in sick less often this year.
“We're working with our labour groups to ensure we can get this under control,” Cameron said.
The ministry's comments on the financial recovery plan come more than half a year after it was approved by Sudbury Catholic trustees.
When asked why the province would wait this long to comment, Cameron said that's probably because it was waiting to see how the board performed in its 2012-2013 financial year, which ended Aug. 31.
A preliminary budget report presented at Sudbury Catholic's September meeting shows the board is still on track to eliminate its deficit in 2015-2016. The final version of the budget is due to be passed at the board's November meeting.