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Brandon trustees axe 11 teaching positions, raise taxes 2.9 per cent

BRANDON -- The Brandon School Division plans to cut 11 teaching positions and raise taxes by 2.9 per cent, after trustees tentatively approved the 2014-15 budget.

Trustees made a decision Tuesday to cut 11 full-time teaching positions -- one from a high-school-level speciality program, one from divisional learning support services and the other nine from yet to be determined grade levels.

School board chairman Mark Sefton said trustees have yet to decide which grades will see staff cuts, but they likely won't affect kindergarten to Grade 3 teachers.

The elimination of the teaching positions, which will come into effect in September, resulted in $880,000 in reductions to the division's nearly $90-million budget.

Sefton said the majority of those positions will likely be eliminated due to retirement or the division won't renew a number of term contracts. Sefton insisted these reductions wouldn't result in layoffs. He added any time resources are taken out of the classroom, it's a "tough" decision to make.

"The board collectively made a decision and in the spirit of compromise, people had to change their positions in order to come to an agreement," Sefton said. "At the end of the day, we needed to have a tentative budget and that's what we've achieved."

The 2.9 per cent tax hike equates to approximately $42.88 per year, or $3.57 per month, for a house assessed at $220,000, as well as a 6.5 per cent reduction to the mill rate.

Since more than 85 per cent of the school division's budget is allocated to salaries and benefits, trustees were forced to consider staff cuts and program efficiencies.

Brandon Teachers' Association president Alison Johnston said the loss of 11 teachers will directly impact the services and supports offered in classrooms.

"Brandon School Division is a growing division," Johnston said. "The dollar can only be stretched so far before it breaks and that's a concern I think we should have as a community.

"Education is an investment... and I think that's something that we as a community have an opportunity to provide."

Trustees also reduced their out-of-province professional development travel fund by $40,000.

-- Brandon Sun

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