As the Brandon School Division eyes an approximate four per cent “worst-case scenario” tax increase, trustees will seek input from community members during a public budget forum on Wednesday.
The board posted a list of potential cost reductions within five scenarios online at bsd.ca for the public to consider at its 2014-15 school division budget forum Wednesday at 7 p.m. at École Harrison. Trustees are examining possible reductions regarding enrolment and program efficiencies.
The meeting will start with a 2014-15 budget overview followed by a question-and-answer period, giving community members a chance to provide input regarding the division’s budget.
BSD previously told the Sun it is looking at a $90-million budget for the 2014-15 school year. Even though the division plans to keep the budget “status quo,” it will still require an additional $3.6 million, due to such factors as inflation, PST increase on supplies/services, enrolment growth, salary provisions and staff benefits.
The 2013-14 budget included a 7.8 per cent increase.
For the 2012-13 school year, the board approved an $80-million budget, which increased taxes by 3.8 per cent.
For 2011-12, the division approved a $74,779,000 budget with a 5.3 per cent tax increase.
Rapid enrolment growth will continue to put a strain on BSD’s budget, school board chair Mark Sefton told the Sun previously.
BSD enrolment has climbed to 8,338 students, compared to 8,232 in 2012 and 7,923 in 2011, and is expected to continue rising.
“We know that we’re running out of space,” Sefton said.
“While we have all these new students coming in, we don’t have a one-to-one relationship between one new student and one new taxpayer ... so the burden is not distributed exactly equally.”
Along with enrolment growth, trustees will have to consider programming and staffing.
Programs and infrastructure for increasing diversity of student learning needs, which include English as an Additional Language students, at-risk youth and students of aboriginal heritage, will also be taken into consideration.
Despite a recent announcement by Education and Advanced Learning Minister James Allum that Manitoba schools will see a two per cent — or $24.4-million — funding increase, BSD will still be facing a $1.3-million deficit.
In 2012, BSD received one of the largest percentage increases in funding from the province for the 2013-14 school year.
“After factoring in our expected enrolment growth for next year, even with the increase in funding and with making no additions to staffing, programs or services, we would still have a deficit of $1.3 million,” last Thursday’s BSD press release stated.
“The board plans to find ways to minimize any potential tax increases.”
The release also noted that 85 per cent of BSD’s operating budget is set aside for salaries and benefits and is the “only place where there can be appreciable savings.”
BSD added such reductions “have a direct impact on students.”
Trustees will take the information gathered at Wednesday’s budget consultation into their full-day budget deliberations on Feb. 18.
Wednesday’s meeting will be streamed live at bsd.ca and questions can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.
On March 18, the board will meet to give final approval of the budget prior to submitting it to the province.
The board plans to hear from the province by sometime in March regarding the funding that will be provided to continue with the K-3 class size initiative.