The Brandon School Division’s elected officials waded into this year’s budget season for the first time Thursday, with secretary-treasurer Denis Labossiere presenting possible budget scenarios.
Factoring into one of these scenarios was a number of requests made by the board of trustees and senior administration.
Trustees are requesting that $86,100 be allocated to pay for busing for home economics and industrial arts students who currently have to arrange private transportation or take public transit to those classes. Also being requested by trustees is $79,700 for full-day every day kindergarten at Green Acres School.
The issue of busing was proposed to be added for last year’s budget talks, but it did not end up under consideration. Chairperson Linda Ross said at the time that it would likely pop up during this year’s budget talks.
Three budget requests were made by senior administration. The first is $109,200 to be spent on adding vice-principal positions at École Harrison, Betty Gibson and Maryland Park schools.
As Supt. Marc Casavant indicated to the Sun earlier this year, senior administration is requesting that $182,000 be spent on bringing in two full-time speech-language pathologists.
"I think what we hear loud and clear from staff is that they want an increase in supports to the tier three students," Casavant told the Sun after the meeting. "Those are students that require extra support outside of classroom instruction."
An additional $150,000 is being requested to pay for accessible learning resources and professional learning opportunities for staff to improve learning accessibility in the division.
This money, according to Casavant, would be used to buy equipment to assist students needing help with communication not related to speech.
The provincial government recently announced that school divisions would be capped at two per cent mill rate increases, but that appears to not be a factor in BSD deliberations, with the proposals presented on Thursday indicating slight mill rate decreases of either 2.6 per cent or 2.06 per cent, depending on the scenario. The financial impact of these decreases would be lessened as a result of property reassessments scheduled to take place this year.
Late last month, the province announced that school divisions are being ordered to reduce their total senior administrative staff numbers by 15 per cent. Ross said that she didn’t understand the request given that the Brandon School Division has been reducing administrative costs for years.
In the proposed budget, administrative costs would decrease by 3.2 per cent. This, according to provided documents, comes from the elimination of the equivalent of a full-time position and the reallocation of responsibilities.
Constraining the budget were the tax incentive grant and the general support grant for payroll taxes being further phased out by the provincial government.
Another challenge for the division is rising enrollment numbers. While recent increases in enrollment have led to funding increases from the province, they also mean additional expenses. The division is projecting that enrollment in 2020-21 will climb from 9,003 students this year to 9,081.
These figures are not final as budget deliberations continue into March. The next budget event is public consultations at the division administration office boardroom at 7 p.m. on Feb. 20. The public is welcome to attend and ask questions.
A public budget presentation will take place on March 2nd at 7 p.m. in the boardroom, but members of the public who wish to speak at that meeting must register in advance with secretary-treasurer Denis Labossiere’s office. Members of the public can register by emailing email@example.com.
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