Throughout Westman, school divisions are tabling preliminary budgets and encouraging the public to take part in rounds of public consultations designed to scrutinize how taxpayer dollars are being spent.
In the Southwest Horizon School Division, trustees tabled a preliminary budget worth $21.1 million. The budget will require a mill rate increase of 2.6 per cent as the mill rate jumps from 12.58 last year to 14.96 this year.
Brian Spurrill, the division’s secretary-treasurer, said there are practical reasons for the increase.
“Our enrolment is projected to go up between 20 and 25 students, which for a rural board is fairly significant,” Spurrill said.
The increase bucks the trend of declining enrolments and Spurrill said he hasn’t seen a jump this significant in 10 years.
“The economic activity in the region is driving the increase,” Spurrill said. “Communities closer to Brandon are definitely benefiting from more kids in school, and right throughout the region we are seeing more houses being built and more and more young families moving in which bodes well for the future.”
Overall, property owners can expect an increase of about $34 per year in education tax on a property assessed at $200,000 if the preliminary budget is approved.
SHSD will hold a public meeting on March 6 at 6 p.m. at Hartney School to discuss the proposed budget.
Beautiful Plains School Division trustees proposed a budget that calls for a one per cent increase in the mill rate, going from 14.63 to 14.77.
Beautiful Plains secretary-treasurer Gord Olmstead said last year the division’s enrolment jumped by 30 students from September 2012 to January 2013.
This year, the division is budgeting for another increase and estimates that enrolment could be near 1,600 students by the start of next school year.
“We are hiring four more teachers for the budget for next year,” Olmstead said.
In real dollars, the division will add nearly $900,000 with more than 80 per cent of the new money going toward front-line staff.
Of the four teachers hired, three will teach in schools in Neepawa as the enrolment bump coincided with the Hylife Foods’ expansion and hiring approximately 250 new employees near the community.
With many of those new workers coming from a foreign country where English isn’t their first language, it’s a big reason “why we are increasing our ELA resources going from a .5 position to a full-time position next year,” Olmstead said.
The mill rate increase represents a $13 increase for a taxpayer owning a property valued at $200,000.
The Beautiful Plains School Division is set to host its second public consultation tonight at 7 p.m. at Carberry Collegiate.
Turtle Mountain School Division is projecting a mill rate increase of 0.57 mills or 3.6 per cent increase despite projecting enrolment numbers will drop by 25 students.
That represents an increase of $101.50 for a property valued at $250,00 in the Killarney/Turtle Mountain Municipality, which was the sample property area.
TMSD will host a public meeting tonight at 7 p.m. at the division office in Killarney.
Rolling River School Division is projecting a 2.2 per cent increase in the mill rate or about $15 for a property valued at $100,000.
The division is holding a public meeting at 7 p.m. tonight at Tanner’s Crossing School in Minnedosa.
BSD mill rate hike trimed to 8.2 per cent
The Brandon school board has made a slight trim to the tentative 2013 budget.
Brandon School Division’s proposed mill rate increase of 8.5 per cent has dropped to 8.2 per cent.
For the average homeowner with a property assessed at $200,000, the cut means they will pay an extra $113 in school taxes, instead of $117.
Board chair Mark Sefton said the reduction is a result of 2.7 full-time equivalent teaching positions being taken out of the budget.
“Last year, we added nine teachers because of 20K3, part of that was 2.7 FTE that we funded through surplus,” Sefton said.
“Funding an ongoing position through surplus is not a sustainable practice so we needed to deal with that in some way … Really what it came down to was that we ended up taking that 2.7 FTE out of staffing growth, due to enrolment growth.”
Members of the public who would like to make a presentation to the board regarding the proposed budget are invited to the March 4 meeting at the division office at 7 p.m. The division asks members of the public to call 204-729-3114 to put their name on the speakers list.
» Brandon Sun