March 26, 2019

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Education minister knocks six-figure salaries paid to Winnipeg School Division staff

Sparks were flying between Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen and the Winnipeg School Division Friday in the aftermath of news the division may ignore the province’s directive to hold the line on property taxes.

Goertzen took aim at the WSD in a written statement sent to the Free Press, calling out the number of school division employees pulling in six figure salaries, while hinting Manitoba divisions could be amalgamated if the province's cap on special requirement increases isn't observed.

"I understand that some administrative staff salaries at the Winnipeg School Division are higher than any elected official in Manitoba, and 197 staff at the division make $100,000 or more (per year). I have no doubt, if there is a desire, efficiencies can be found,” Goertzen said.

On Thursday, WSD finance chair Lisa Naylor said they were considering a special requirement increase of three per cent (above the provincial cap of two per cent) for the 2019-20 school year. That would drive up property taxes on homes that fall within the division boundary by 2.9 per cent – or $41 on the average assessed home.

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Sparks were flying between Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen and the Winnipeg School Division Friday in the aftermath of news the division may ignore the province’s directive to hold the line on property taxes.

Kelvin Goertzen called out the number of school division employees pulling in six figure salaries, while hinting Manitoba divisions could be amalgamated if the province's cap on special requirement increases isn't observed. (Ruth Bonneville / Free Press files)</p>

Kelvin Goertzen called out the number of school division employees pulling in six figure salaries, while hinting Manitoba divisions could be amalgamated if the province's cap on special requirement increases isn't observed. (Ruth Bonneville / Free Press files)

Goertzen took aim at the WSD in a written statement sent to the Free Press, calling out the number of school division employees pulling in six figure salaries, while hinting Manitoba divisions could be amalgamated if the province's cap on special requirement increases isn't observed.

"I understand that some administrative staff salaries at the Winnipeg School Division are higher than any elected official in Manitoba, and 197 staff at the division make $100,000 or more (per year). I have no doubt, if there is a desire, efficiencies can be found," Goertzen said.

On Twitter: Kelvin Goertzen

Click to Expand

Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen also took aim at the Winnipeg Schood division in a series of tweets Friday afternoon that mirrored his statement to the Winnipeg Free Press.

 

 

 

On Thursday, WSD finance chair Lisa Naylor said they were considering a special requirement increase of three per cent (above the provincial cap of two per cent) for the 2019-20 school year. That would drive up property taxes on homes that fall within the division boundary by 2.9 per cent – or $41 on the average assessed home.

But in his statement Friday, Goertzen seemed to suggest the province would move to claw back any funds brought in over the provincial cap.

"The province will await the final budget and then determine an appropriate administrative spending cap for (the) Winnipeg School Division in an effort to support taxpayers. In addition, this discussion is helpful as the kindergarten to grade 12 education system review considers issues regarding the future of school divisions," Goertzen said.

WSD chair Chris Broughton fired back by calling the minister’s statement "grossly inappropriate," "disappointing" and "uncalled for."

He said the division has tried to set up meetings numerous times with the Goertzen only to be given the "cold shoulder."

"Our administrative costs are one of the lowest, if not the lowest, in the province. The reality is there’s no waste in our administration. We’re extremely lean. He wants to hurt frontline workers and make deep cuts to the education that our students receive," Broughton said.

"It’s a direct threat and it’s grossly inappropriate behaviour for a minister. After getting a cold shoulder from this government, now we’re getting a threat of extinction."

Broughton also expressed frustration that Goertzen appears to be using the current education system review – announced by the province in January – as a cudgel to browbeat and threaten the school division.

"A review which was previously going to be looking at improving education seems simply to be a tool to reduce school divisions and dole out punishments to school divisions that don’t follow the philosophies of the government," Broughton said.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Chris Broughton, vice chair of the Winnipeg School board, speaks at a Winnipeg School Division draft budget public forum  Monday, February 27, 2017.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Chris Broughton, vice chair of the Winnipeg School board, speaks at a Winnipeg School Division draft budget public forum Monday, February 27, 2017.

"The minister would have us believe the review is focused on improving the education system, but now the truth is coming out. This review has no intention of improving the education system, it’s a mechanism to amalgamate school divisions, or eliminate them entirely."

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.

The Winnipeg School Division is the only Winnipeg-based school division which has signalled its intention to ignore the province’s cap.

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.

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Updated on Sunday, February 17, 2019 at 10:49 AM CST: fixes typo

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