Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

School division budget draws little interest

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A $363.8-million draft Winnipeg School Division budget drew all of seven residents to speak Monday night -- and that's a better turnout than usual.

No one really proposed much that would put a dent either way in the proposed 6.8 per cent tax increase if trustees were swayed.

Retired teacher Terry Clifford made his annual visit to warn trustees he was making a pre-emptive strike lest anyone get any notions about cutting back the nursery program the way a 1990s WSD board did.

University of Winnipeg math Prof. Anna Stokke said $57,000 in new money to improve math education certainly didn't cut it, not when you're talking roughly 34,000 students.

"We need to see more than that to go toward improving math education," said Stokke, who hasn't noticed any special math resources for her kids at Robert H. Smith School.

Ralph Brown School parent Christa Traczuk said there's no reason similar schools with more single parents should be getting milk subsidies denied to kids at her school.

Stanley Knowles parent Heather Grant-Jury told the board $1,000 a month would mean parents would no longer have to pay $25 a month for lunch supervision.

Grant-Jury said the parents are raising money for wiring in the school and an outdoor basketball court. "We could ask for those monies, but we know those monies don't exist," she said.

There were two delegations, one walk-on, and four members of the crowd who spoke to a meeting that lasted barely an hour to hear how to spend almost 18 per cent of the public school money in all of Manitoba.

Secretary-treasurer Rene Appelmans said while Education Minister Nancy Allan has increased provincial grants 2.3 per cent on its share of the $2.026-billion public education system, she gave WSD only 0.6 per cent after a flat zero a year ago.

With 120 fewer students this year, the division will cut $746,000 worth of staff through attrition.

The increase would amount to $95.89 on a home assessed at a value of $200,000.

Draft budgets in the city call for tax increases ranging from 2.5 per cent in River East Transcona to 6.8 per cent in Winnipeg.

Louis Riel is looking at 3.7 per cent, Pembina Trails 3.4, Seine River 3.7, Seven Oaks 4.76 and St. James-Assiniboia 5.14 per cent -- SJA holds its budget forum Wednesday evening at 7 p.m. at the board offices at 2574 Portage Ave. at Moray.

Only Seven Oaks and Seine River received substantial increases in provincial operating grants, 4.92 per cent in Seven Oaks -- where enrolment growth slowed to two per cent, half of what was forecast -- and 3.7 per cent in Seine River.

St. James-Assiniboia, River East Transcona, and Louis Riel got no increase from the province, and would have lost money over last year had Allan not announced school divisions would be guaranteed zero as a minimum. Pembina Trails has only a 0.1 per cent increase.

Boards must set their mill rates by March 15.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 26, 2013 A4

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