‘Modest reductions’ in Seven Oaks budget
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This article was published 03/03/2022 (464 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
THE Seven Oaks School Division’s upcoming budget will allow for “almost status quo” operations in its 26 schools and two adult learning centres in north Winnipeg in 2022-23.
Division leaders revealed the contents of the $165-million draft budget, which accounts for a slight decrease in provincial operating funding, during a public meeting this week.
“It’s really modest reductions, but they’re reductions nonetheless,” said Brian O’Leary, superintendent of the division that oversees roughly 11,700 K-12 students.
Seven Oaks’ annual operating funding will decrease by around $30,000 next year as a result of a dip in enrolment amid the COVID-19 pandemic, despite the fact it has projected its student population will reach 12,000 by the end of June 2023.
O’Leary said the division is subtracting eight teaching positions and around 20 support staff positions to accommodate budget constraints. Layoffs were issued at the start of the current school year to afford a wage settlement for support staff members and avert a strike, he said, adding the reductions will be permanent, for now.
Although programs will be maintained, a “modest impact” on elementary class sizes is anticipated — but the target for K-3 classes will remain under 20, O’Leary said.
The superintendent noted the division has significantly reduced early-years class sizes since March 2020 in an effort to direct more resources to students who are affected the most by remote learning disruptions.
“Our youngest kids didn’t fare all that well through remote learning. They were online for small portions of the day and there was a tremendous load on parents,” he said.
Seven Oaks anticipates it will have spent $2.2 million on pandemic-related expenses for the current school year, all of which will be recovered from the province, by the end of June.
If the province does not renew COVID-19 funding for 2022-23, there will be additional budget cuts, O’Leary said.
“Needless to say, this year has been a challenging year,” said Greg McFarlane, chairman of the board of trustees, at the Feb. 28 budget meeting. “We’d like to thank our dedicated superintendent team, teachers and support staff who have risen to the occasion and have gone above and beyond for our children.”
McFarlane asked members of the audience to pause for a moment of silence at the meeting in solidarity with both the people of Ukraine and Ukrainian families in the division in recognition of Russia’s ongoing invasion.
The board then screened a video of a song the Collège Garden City Collegiate choir had recorded for the occasion.
The average homeowner in Seven Oaks will pay $85 less on their property education tax bill this year because the province is maintaining a fee freeze as it continues to both phase out the tax and rejig the education funding system.
For the second year in a row, the province will provide every division with a grant worth the equivalent of a two per cent hike in local taxes.
School boards will receive funding to cover financial pressures, including recent teacher and support staff salary settlements — all of which stem from the February 2021 Pembina Trails arbitration board decision that disregarded the Tories’ controversial wage freeze legislation, the now-defunct Public Services Sustainability Act.
Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.
Updated on Thursday, March 3, 2022 6:21 AM CST: Adds photo