Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Property-tax hikes across city

Six of seven divisions see increases in upcoming budgets

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School property taxes are going up in six of Winnipeg's seven divisions.

And when St. James-Assiniboia trustees finally reveal their draft budget on Feb. 27, it may very well be the entire city in which education property taxes are increasing.

Draft budgets 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, and Seven Oaks 4.76.

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.

Winnipeg, River East Transcona, and Louis Riel got absolutely no increase from the province, and would have lost money over last year had Education Minister Nancy Allan not announced school divisions would be guaranteed zero as a minimum.

Pembina Trails has only a 0.1 per cent increase in provincial support and Winnipeg a mere 0.6 per cent.

Allan gave school divisions a $27.2-million increase, or 2.3 per cent increase, in operating grants late in January, but those are averages across 37 school divisions. There are 16 divisions across Manitoba that received a zero increase, though the province has said it will not release a list of them at this time.

Louis Riel superintendent Duane Brothers is still trying to figure out how his division could increase enrolment by 200 students -- the most significant criterion in establishing provincial operating grants -- yet get not a penny more than it received a year ago.

"We are having some significant immigration," as well as a steady stream of families moving into the massive Sage Creek development, Brothers said. "There are probably 300 students out of Sage Creek attending our schools."

Even Archwood School, which had been slated for likely closure prior to the 2008 moratorium on school closings, has been bouncing back, Brothers said. "Just east on Dugald Road, there's a subdivision."

And after retirements, Louis Riel has left vacant an assistant superintendent and communications director jobs. "We thought it made sense not to fill the positions," he said.

Seven Oaks superintendent Brian O'Leary said homeowners who've had to carry a much heavier share of the tax burden than elsewhere in the city have even more bad news this year. Seven Oaks still has by far the lowest commercial assessment base in Winnipeg, and owners of those businesses managed to get the value of their assessments knocked down four per cent in successful appeals over the past year.

The Pembina Trails board cautioned its draft budget will not be the final budget. Residents can advise the board by Thursday if they wish to address trustees on Feb. 28.

Winnipeg School Division trustees hold their budget forum next at 7 p.m.

The draft is almost entirely a status quo budget, said WSD finance chairwoman Cathy Collins.

The division has found $2.6 million in savings in administration and its online and phone systems, but wants to improve its math resources for students, Collins said.

"We're making some investments in trying to improve our online math," responding to parents' calls for any help with math the division can give their kids, she said.

"We want to talk to the public about staggering bus times. We could save about $500,000" by operating fewer buses, but on more than one route, she said. Some other divisions have cut spending that way.

Most school boards increased property taxes a year ago, when Allan's operating grants fell about $36 million short of traditional costs of running the public school system. Allan dropped the tax-incentive grant a year ago, additional money that for the previous four years had encouraged trustees to freeze taxes.

Trustees have until March 15 to submit their mill rates for the 2013-14 school year.


Region by region

HERE are the amounts school property taxes would increase on a house assessed at a value of $200,000 in each of the city divisions under the current draft budgets. Note the average assessed value of homes across each division varies division to division, and these $200,000 homes may not be identical in every division:


Seven Oaks: $69.77

Winnipeg: $95.89

Louis Riel: $42.66

Pembina Trails: $39.46

River East Transcona: $32.14

Seine River: $60.14

St. James-Assiniboia: TBA


-- source: Free Press calculations based on data supplied by divisions

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 19, 2013 B1

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