After factoring a modest jump in provincial funding, the Brandon School Division finds itself $2.9 million in the red in order to maintain the status quo — both in terms of services and community taxes, according to its preliminary operating budget.
Trustees had their first look at the budget on Monday, which offered four property tax options that all included a tax hike designed in various ways to make up the shortfall.
BSD’s budget calculates a $1.23-million increase in funding from the province this year — from $60.35 million to $61.58 million — with the majority of the funds allocated due to the division’s ballooning enrolment. The division is expecting a 1.9 per cent increase in enrolment, or 157 more students, beginning in September 2017.
"To be frank, there are no increases (in government funding) in any of our categories other than our usual enrolment increases … any funding increases were based strictly on bodies," BSD secretary-treasurer Denis Labossiere said on Monday.
BSD’s first scenario proposes a 3.81 per cent mill rate increase to school taxes, which would add approximately $62 per year on a house assessed at $251,000. The property tax increase would essentially be revenue neutral for BSD, covering the shortfall of $2.9 million.
"(Scenario one) is basically us doing everything that we’re doing this year again next year, but while maintaining the ratio of students we are anticipating," said BSD chair Kevan Sumner. "The easiest way to think of it is doing the exact same thing except for 1.9 per cent more students."
The second scenario includes two additional budget requests that come with a $377,100 price tag, bumping the proposed education mill rate by 4.18 per cent and subsequently increasing taxes about $68 per year on the same $251,000 home.
Of the budget requests, one is for the addition of three full-time educational assistant positions to supervise school buses, costing $77,100. This would be above and beyond the video surveillance that was approved last year, Sumner said. The second request is for the implementation of Continuous Improvement Framework — a planning tool aimed at improving literacy and numeracy throughout the school division, costing an estimated $300,000.
"For the most part under scenarios one and two, the average student showing up in September would see no difference as a result of our budget, aside from normal budget improvements," Sumner said. "If we get into the budget reductions (such as in the other two scenarios) … we would try to find the reductions that would have minimal impact so students wouldn’t see any changes, but some likely would."
Scenario three and four present smaller mill rate tax increases — a three per cent increase and a 1.5 per cent increase — that force BSD to find cost savings. If taxes are increased by three per cent BSD would need to cut $820,000 from the budget, while $2.3 million would need to be trimmed if the mill rate is increased 1.5 per cent.
The largest jump in BSD expenditures from last year to this year is in the budget line: regular instruction. The line, which is primarily teachers’ salaries, registered a $2.6-million jump. "Student Support Services" jumped $840,000, according to the budget.
"Staff costs make up 85 per cent of our budget … Having to cut two million out of fixed costs … it would put a lot of pressure on (the division)," Sumner said. "Do we not put new computers in schools for a year, do we risk running with a slightly older fleet of school buses … we can’t not heat our schools or fuel our buses. There are districts in the United States where children have to bring their own toilet paper to school because they’ve literally cut toilet paper from the budget … clearly no one wants it to get close to that point."
The board usually settles on a budget somewhere in between the presented options after public consultations and deliberations, Sumner said, which is why participation in public consultations is so important.
"I take (feedback) very seriously and I believe my colleagues do as well," Sumner said.
Public consultation will be held tonight at 7 p.m. in the Kirkcaldy Heights School gymnasium. There will also be a livestream set up for anyone who cannot attend, and questions can be submitted online, Sumner said.
» Twitter: @erindebooy
SIDEBAR: BSD scenarios
• 3.81 per cent mill rate increase
• Budget neutral
• $62.49 increase on $251,000 home
• 4.18 per cent mill rate increase
• Budget plus $377,100 in additional spending
• $68.58 increase on $251,000 home
• 3 per cent mill rate increase
• $820,000 in cuts
• $49.23 increase on $251,000 home
• 1.5 per cent mill rate increase
• $2.34 million in cuts
• $24.66 increase on $251,000 home