What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?
When it comes to the need for more classroom space for schools within the Brandon School Division, we’ll bet on the irresistible force having to hike taxes this spring.
As the Sun has reported this week, the Brandon School Division will be submitting a request to the Public Schools Fiance Board for 12 portable classroom units for the upcoming 2013-14 school year, to accommodate the city’s growing student population.
The current student enrolment within the division stands at 8,232 — a 309-person increase over the previous school year — and is set to increase substantially over the coming years. In fact, the division has already exceeded the projected numbers for 2014-15, and schools like New Era have already reached capacity.
At the same time, the division has little choice but to comply with a provincially mandated cap on class size for kindergarten to Grade 3 classes to 20 students (20K3) in the next four years.
Last September, the division estimated that by 2016, the city will require an additional 13 classrooms for grades 4 to 8, while another 12 high school classrooms will be needed by 2017.
The BSD also said that in kindergarten to Grade 3, a projected 66 additional classrooms will be needed by 2016, due to both population growth and the mandated class size cap.
Each new classroom comes with a price tag of nearly $200,000 apiece, with funds coming from the finance board to pay for them. Nevertheless, the division will have to cover the connection fees. School board members were informed that $7,000 for each portable classroom — a total of $84,000 —will be set aside in the upcoming budget to cover extra costs.
But we note that just because the division has asked the Public Schools Finance Board for a bunch of new porta-classes, school board chair Mark Sefton says they really don’t know how many the province will award the school division at this time.
“There really is no way of influencing them,” Sefton told the Sun. “We should know more by May.”
Though the school division requested the province build a new school in Brandon by 2015 to meet the city’s growing needs, there doesn’t seem to be the political will from the NDP government to make it happen. Nor is the province backing down on its classroom cap size mandate — a policy that will only exacerbates Brandon’s student overcrowding situation. And we do recognize, of course, the poor financial situation the provincial government has spent its way into.
Don’t get us wrong — we are very glad to see that so many newcomer families are staying in Brandon and growing their families in this community. But there are natural growing pains that come hand in hand with an increase in population. And as such, there is a cost to pay.
The question here is which government will pay for that pain — and by that we mean “which pool of taxpayers.” We fully expect the problems facing the school division to be reflected in the size of the first draft budget that will be presented on Jan. 21.
With the province seemingly unwilling and perhaps unable to pay the cost of Brandon’s growth — without finding new ways to tax Manitobans, of course — and Brandon’s student population growth showing no signs of levelling off any time soon, something’s gotta give.
Or rather, someone — Brandon ratepayers.