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SJASD releases draft budget

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Homes within the St. James-Assiniboia School Division will see a tax increase according to a draft of the division’s latest budget.

The draft budget was presented at a parent council/public meeting on Feb. 27. It calls for a spending increase of just over $2 million, or 2.11% over last year.

The 2014-2015 draft budget calls for a 3.8% property tax increase. The increase amounts to a $49.92 increase on a home valued at $247,556.

The division has seen a $2.2-million increase in salaries and benefits, from $80.3 million in 2013 to $82.6 million in 2014, as well as a $343,307 increase in services, from slightly more than $9.1 million in 2013 to over $9.5 million in 2014.

The draft budget outlines 61 capital projects for 2014-2015, including Buchanan School’s plan to remove elevated areas and retain walls. According to the draft, the school’s concrete retaining walls are crumbling and shifting out of place. The renovations are slated to cost $316,055.

Another capital project outlined in the draft budget is Ness Middle School’s plan to replace windows for $127,600. Existing windows are expected to be replaced with "triple pane, argon filled, energy efficient aluminum windows."

Phoenix School’s west portable is slated to be re-clad at an estimated cost of $31,200,  "as the exterior siding has deteriorated and is unsightly," according to the draft.

The SJASD did not receive a provincial funding increase for the third year in a row. However, the mill rate for SJASD dropped from 13.352 mills in 2013 to 12.242 mills. The division is able to maintain a low rate because it has a portioned assessment increase of 13.44% which is lower than the Metro Average Portioned Assessment by 1.27%. Other Metro school divisions can provide increases to their mill rate because their property assessments are rising at a quicker rate than SJASD, according to the draft budget.

Student enrolment numbers are dwindling, though the draft doesn’t provide specific population numbers. The cost-per-pupil for 2013 was $12,050, which is higher than the average cost-per-pupil in other school divisions ($11,185). Although the student population numbers are dwindling, the draft explains it costs more to educate a student in the SJASD division because it has less students and the fixed costs to operate are spread over fewer pupils.

The board is expected to vote on the draft budget at the board meeting on March 11. Board chair Craig McGregor was not able to comment on the budget until after that date.

To see the draft budget, visit sjsd.net

For more information, call the SJASD at 204-888-7951.

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