COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN
Brandon School Division trustees vote on budget amendments on Monday evening.
Brandon School Division trustees stuck to their plans and passed a 2014-15 budget that includes cuts to teaching positions during their regular board meeting on Monday night.
Seven out of eight trustees in attendance voted in favour of the budget, which includes cutting 11 full-time positions and a 2.9 per cent tax increase.
Glen Kruck was the only trustee who opposed the motion, while vice-chairperson Jim Murray was absent.
Although trustees tossed around a handful of amendments to a tentative budget approved on Feb. 18, none were approved and the budget was passed unchanged.
Kruck presented two amendments, including cutting into the division’s maintenence budget to help save a number of teaching positions, but was unable to sway other trustees.
Eliminating 11 teaching positions is "very much a step backwards," Kruck told the Sun.
"There’s a number of things that we could have done, but I am not supportive of reducing even one teaching position. I believe we could have found those cost reductions in other fashions."
School board chair Mark Sefton said this budget, in particular, was very much a "difficult balancing act" for trustees.
Sefton noted the board has added approximately 96 teaching positions over the last few years to address specific teaching needs and enrolment growth.
This year, he said, the board was forced to "take a step back."
With more than 85 per cent of the school division’s budget allocated to staff salaries and benefits, trustees were forced to consider staff cuts and program efficiencies.
Salaries and benefits include regular instruction, student support services, community education and services, divisional administration, instruction and other support services, transportation as well as operations and maintenence.
The 11 full-time teaching positions include one from a high school-level speciality program, one from divisional learning support services and nine from yet to be determined grade levels.
The elimination of the teaching positions, which will come into effect in September, results in $880,000 in reductions to the division’s nearly $90-million budget.
Supt. Donna Michaels told trustees that principals have been informed of these teaching cuts. Since they have been approved, part of the process will include principals reexamining classes with less than 15 students.
The loss of 11 full-time teaching positions, Michaels said, will have more of an impact at the high school level.
"It would mean an adjustment in the ratio from teachers to students, not very much different for elementary, but the difference would be in senior high schools," Michaels said.
BSD’s 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.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 11, 2014