03/23/2016 10:50 EDT | Updated 03/24/2017 01:12 EDT

Trustees in Saskatchewan school division warn of cuts if funding not hiked

WARMAN, Sask. — A Saskatchewan cabinet minister is accusing a school division of playing politics during an election campaign after trustees sent a letter to parents warning of possible staff cuts if education funding is not increased.

The letter sent Tuesday by the Prairie Spirit division says in past years it's had to cut spending and dip into reserve funds to keep its books balanced.

It says the division will be $3 million short for the 2016-2017 school year without more provincial cash and in the absence of a provincial budget, it may have to chop as many as 75 full-time positions.

Layoff notices would not go out until the division at least has time to look at the budget.

Education Minister Don Morgan says the letter is unnecessary and that he's urging the board not take any action right now.

Larry Pavloff, Prairie Spirit's board chairman, denies any political motivation for the letter's timing, saying he hopes the budget delivers enough funding to make cuts unnecessary.

"To do this right now, midway through an election, is pure politics," Morgan said Tuesday to reporters at his campaign office in Saskatoon. He said he talked to John Kuzbik, the division's director of education, and urged him to wait until the election is over.

Morgan said he would 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 that could happen alongside a current review of the board's capital expenses by the provincial auditor.

The minister said he is not currently aware of the specifics of how the board spends its money, but he suggested areas such as professional development, staff travel and administration could be looked at for potential cuts.

Saskatchewan NDP leader Cam Broten issued a statement Tuesday on the situation facing the division.

"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 Saskatchewan Party," he wrote. (CKOM)

CKOM, The Canadian Press