While many school divisions around the province are considering cuts to budgets, Western School Division is in a better situation than most.
WSD will be receiving a 4.4 per cent increase, which will equate to about $474,305 extra for the division. The increase is the second highest in the province.
Western School Division chairperson Brian Fransen said the division was definitely fortunate to be receiving such an increase.
“We could have a serious look at maintaining and possibly improving some of the services and programming that we provide,” Fransen said. “Last year because our budget was a little bit tighter we had to make some cuts in certain areas. This year we are planning on putting back a little bit of the money we had to take out last year.”
Part of the reason for such an increase in funding is because WSD saw a 4.6 per cent increase in enrolment last year.
The division’s budget for 2019/20 will be $21,743,342, about $760,000 more than last year.
83.2 per cent of that budget goes toward salaries. WSD has a pupil to teacher ratio of 16.4, slightly under the provincial average of 16.7.
“With all of our growth we’re hiring more teachers and more support staff to handle that, specifically continuing to support and enhance our literacy and numeracy programming,” Fransen said.
64.53 per cent of the budget funding comes from the Province of Manitoba, which leaves 33.95 per cent of the bill to be picked up by homeowners.
On a home assessed at $275,000, school taxes will be dropping from $1,903.28 to $1,895.85, a reduction of $7.42.
A section of farmland valued at $1 million would see a reduction of $15.60, and a $500,000 business would see a reduction of $19.50.
The school division will also be opening Minnewasta School in the evenings for community use starting next year, something that they haven’t done before.
“Our communities love to use the space that we have in our schools,’ Fransen said. “With the growth that we’ve had in the schools not only are the communities wanting to use it, but also the schools are needing to use more of that space. Sometimes the schools now are taking longer into the evening, which prevents the community from being able to use it.”
WSD also set aside additional money for a new school.
“When you’re looking at growth in the future, you can’t just run on empty,” Fransen said. “The province when it provides funding for new schools or even portable classrooms it’s the bare bones. It’s the space and we need to fill it. We need to use local dollars to fill it, and so we’re trying to be prudent with our budgeting looking forward.”
Fransen said there is more optimism about a new school with every year that goes by, and said the board feels good about their 2019/20 budget.
“Over the last number of years we’ve had to make some difficult decisions and looking forward saying, ‘We aren’t always going to be in sunshine and rainbows,’” he said. “We have to be planning ahead and not making rash decisions. We’ve been pretty prudent over the last number of years and we ended up in a situation this year where we are fortunate to have more than most of the other divisions around us.”