Sask. deficit $675M last year, 58% higher than previous estimate

The final numbers have come in on last year's Saskatchewan budget deficit and it's worse than previously projected.

Lower-than-expected oil, potash revenues cited as reason for ballooning deficit

Saskatchewan's budget deficit was $675 million last year, the provincial government says. (Kevin O'Connor/CBC)

The final numbers have come in on last year's Saskatchewan budget deficit and it's worse than previously projected.

The Ministry of Finance said Friday that the deficit — the amount spending exceeds revenues — was $675 million as of March 31, 2016.

That's 58 per cent higher than the deficit projected in the finance ministry's third quarter financial update.

It's also a far cry from the $107 million surplus predicted when the budget was released on March 18, 2015.

Finance Minister Kevin Doherty said the deficit is caused by low resource prices, particularly when it comes to oil and potash. 

"We're seeing some upside right now, some stability. Some of the jobs reports right now coming out in the province are positive," Doherty said. "We're optimistic about that but there's no question there continues to be some challenges in the province's finances."

In order to help offset unstable commodity prices, Doherty and the government are currently undertaking a "transformational change" review.

"We have to make some very difficult decisions on what is sustainable over the long term and providing the core services to the people of the province that they expect and deserve and that's why we're going through the process of transformational change," Doherty said.

Pension adjustment pushes debt over $1B

The $675 million doesn't include a "pension adjustment" of $845 million.

Including that, the total deficit would be $1.52 billion.

The government says the pension adjustment is highly volatile and for that reason isn't included in surplus or deficit calculations at budget time, or for the province's quarterly budget forecasts.

Another deficit is projected in the current fiscal year, which began April 1.

The province expects spending to exceed revenues by $434 million (not including the pension adjustment).

The government said last month it wants to return to a balanced budget by the 2017-18 fiscal year.

In March 2015, the province had projected a $107 million surplus for the fiscal year. The government now says there was a $675 million deficit as of March 31, 2016. (CBC News)

With files from Adam Hunter