Brandon School Division’s 2013-14 preliminary budget plan was unveiled to school board trustees Monday night, giving them a rough idea of just how much rapid enrolment will affect this year’s numbers.
"This is indeed a draft of our budget, we might even call it a wish list," said school board chair Mark Sefton. "If there were only limited restraints on funding, this is what we would wish for."
Some of the factors impacting this year’s budget include enrolment growth, additional staffing, programs for the increasing diversity of student learning needs, infrastructure development and support for program delivery.
But creating a first draft of the budget that can accommodate more students was a recurring theme throughout the first read of the budget.
"Enrolment is affecting a big part of our budget," secretary-treasurer Kevin Zabowski told trustees.
The average enrolment growth rate over the past five years was three per cent and the school division is anticipating that trend to continue.
Senior administration is proposing the addition of 57 new staffing positions, which include teachers, maintenance and support, as they predict an increase of 500 new students from the 2011-12 to the 2013-14 school year.
But at this point it’s difficult to determine just how much the budget will increase from last year and how much taxpayers will be affected until the provincial funding announcement is made before Feb. 1, Sefton said.
"This will determine everything really," he said.
"Everything rides on that funding announcement."
During the 2012-13 school year, the school division received 62.3 per cent of its total funding from the province.
Last year’s budget hovered around $78 million, but due to the influx of more than 200 new students just this year, the new budget has to change to accommodate that Sefton said.
"In simplest terms, the budget is to serve our students and when enrolment grows, so does our budget," Sefton said. "The average expenditure per student is roughly $10,000 and costs are rising rapidly."
Sefton added that finding sustainability in certain areas of the budget is key to providing for current students and enrolments in the future.
"We have rapidly growing and diversified enrolment. This is a good thing but it does place burdens on the system," he said.
"We need to put in place programs to maximize student learning for today and for students to register for in the future."
Total resource requirement requests currently total $4,600,900. Board committee requests totalled $1,197,900, while senior administration requests are $3,403,000.
Both sets of requests include the cost of business, facilities, human resources and supplies.
Another highlight of the budget includes the $84,000 that’s currently being set aside for the school board’s request for 12 portable classrooms that was submitted earlier this month to the Public Schools Finance Board.
But the school board won’t find out how many portables the school division will be awarded with until May or June.
"Seven thousand dollars per classroom is needed to be funded by the division when it comes to accessing the portables, window treatments, these are items that have to be picked up by the Brandon School Division," Zabowski said.
He added that if they get the go ahead, the Public Schools Finance Board will cover the cost of the nearly $200,000 price tag per portable classroom.
The school division spends 85.1 per cent of its budget on salaries and employee benefits compared to the provincial average of 82.8 per cent.
The rest of the budget includes services at 6.4 per cent, supplies and materials at 6.2 per cent and fiscal and capital expenses at 2.3 per cent.
A public consultation will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 6 at 7 p.m. at Earl Oxford School, giving community members a chance to weigh in on the preliminary budget.
The division’s all-day budget deliberations will commence on Feb. 19. A special public board meeting will then be held March 4 and on March 11 trustees will officially approve the budget.
The first draft of the 2013-14 budget plan can be viewed online by visiting brandonsd.mb.ca.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition January 22, 2013