Winnipeg School Division may disregard province on funding cap

At least one local school division looks poised to ignore Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen's directive to cap special requirement increases – which drive up property taxes – at two per cent. The division cites the provincial government’s refusal to “fund education adequately.”

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/02/2019 (1282 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

At least one local school division looks poised to ignore Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen’s directive to cap special requirement increases – which drive up property taxes – at two per cent. The division cites the provincial government’s refusal to “fund education adequately.”

Lisa Naylor, finance chair for the Winnipeg School Division (WSD), said their board of trustees has forecasted a special requirement increase of three per cent for the 2019-20 school year, which would drive up property taxes in the division by 2.9 per cent — or $41 on the average assessed home value.

“This is the second year in a row where the province has put a cap on how much we can ask for … That hasn’t been decided in legislation, so we’re treating it as a recommendation. It’s one we’ve done our best to respect. We did it last year, but this year it feels that to do so again we’d have to cut important services,” Naylor said.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Lisa Naylor, finance chairwoman for the Winnipeg School Division, says the division needs a property tax increase of three per cent.

In January, the province announced funding for elementary and secondary education would rise by $6.6 million for the 2019-20 school year, the same increase as the year before. It also again delivered a directive to school divisions to hold the line on special requirement increases – which result in property tax hikes – at two per cent.

‘We don’t get enough from the province to address growing needs with students with special needs, newcomers, or children living with the effects of poverty.’ — Lisa Naylor, finance chair for the Winnipeg School Division

Despite the additional education funding province-wide, the WSD received a funding cut of roughly $200,000 due to a slight dip in enrollment, Naylor said. She said it’s unfair for the province to deliver a funding cut, then ask them to hold the line on property taxes.

“Part of our job is to make a decision on how much property tax is required in order to meet the needs in our school division. The amount we’re going to the community for is not particularly high,” Naylor said.

“If the province wants us to not rely on property tax to fund education, then they have to start funding education adequately… We don’t get enough from the province to address growing needs with students with special needs, newcomers, or children living with the effects of poverty.”

The Free Press sent two interview requests to Goertzen’s office Thursday. His press secretary did not respond to either request. A provincial spokeswoman later sent a written statement to the Free Press, but it did not address the WSD proposed special requirement increase.

There are six Winnipeg-based school divisions, all of which will finalize budgets for the 2019-20 school year in March. The Free Press spoke with five of them Thursday: WSD; River East Transcona School Division; Seven Oaks School Division; Louis Riel School Division; and St. James-Assiniboia School Division.

Aside from the WSD, all indicated they planned to abide by the provincial government’s directive to cap special requirement increases at two per cent. 

The Pembina Trails School Division released its draft budget Thursday night. It forecasted an increase of 0.4 per cent, or $9, in school taxes on the average homeowner.

The province is currently conducting a review of the education system, which is expected to be complete by February 2020. It will look at combining the existing six school divisions in Winnipeg.

ryan.thorpe@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @rk_thorpe

Ryan Thorpe

Ryan Thorpe
Reporter

Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.

History

Updated on Friday, February 15, 2019 10:21 AM CST: Updates that Pembina Trails School Division released its draft budget Thursday night

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