Winnipeg School Division trustees have passed the division’s budget for the 2013-14 school year, which makes room for more staff and resources for students.
The division saw less than a one per cent increase in funding from the province, to the tune of $1.05-million, for a total of over $175-million in provincial funding. Provincial funding comprises 63% of the revenue the division receives, with property taxes constituting the second highest source of revenue.
According to a release issued by the division, the board "focused its efforts in areas that would not directly affect students in the classroom," when it began looking for ways to reduce costs.
The board eventually brought down costs by over $2.6-million for a budget totalling $365-million, up 2.45% over last year.
The school division has been able to cut costs by taking advantage of new technologies. The ability of Information Technologists within the division to diagnose computer problems remotely has cut down on costs relating to in-person visits.
The division’s use of its fibre-optic network to eliminate reliance on outside phone service will also produce savings, with the exception of fees associated with having phone numbers registered.
Taxes in the division are going up slightly, with the average home seeing an increase of $6 per month.
Included in this year’s expenditures, which total over $365-million, are additional teaching staff which will serve to maintain class sizes at the provincially-mandated level of approximately 20 students.
"The province passed an act that said we had to reduce class sizes down to 20," said board finance chair Cathy Collins.
"We had five years to initiate it, now we’re in year two."
However, exactly which schools the teachers will be going to has yet to be determined.
Computer-based math supports for elementary students are also included in the budget.
"It’s to purchase a program called DreamBox. Some of the classroom have computers in them, so the teacher can teach in one section and the kids can go over and use the computer," Collins said.
"We wanted to install (the software) and buy licences for it. We’re going to spend $57,000."
Collins said the division will also be undertaking multiple routine repairs to division buildings all around the city.
"We have a lot of buildings and a lot of them are very old. Some of the things we have to do are energy management improvements," Collins explained.
"Upgrading lighting, repairing windows. We may have roof leaks, we have building envelopes.
There’s elevator upgrades, vocational equipment. There’s also cafeteria upgrades... It’s routine. Technology changes, and some of the things we’re doing will pay us back.
"We may spend the money, but we’ll have lower heating costs."