Louis Riel SD passes 2023-24 budget

Officials say tapping into surplus unsustainable


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The Louis Riel School Division board of trustees approved the division’s 2023-24 budget last week. This year’s budget totals $224,776,978.

The change for the average homeowner will be an increase of $1.91 or 0.10 per cent, as the value of the average home in the division increased from $346,000 in 2022 to $379,000 in 2023.

Speaking on March 2, after the LRSD draft budget was released, board chair Sandy Nemeth said a big challenge putting together this year’s budget has been dealing with the challenges of the last few years – dealing with the ongoing effects of the pandemic, growing enrolment numbers, and inflation.

<p>Supplied photo</p>
                                <p>Louis Riel School Division board chair Sandy Nemeth.</p>

Supplied photo

Louis Riel School Division board chair Sandy Nemeth.

This year was also the first time LRSD delivered a deficit draft budget — and board proposed, and ultimately approved, using funds from its accumulated surplus to make up for the 2023-24 shortfall, something Nemeth said will be not be sustainable for the division.

This year’s budget was approved at a special meeting on March 14. The division’s top voices reiterated that tapping into the surplus is unsustainable in a subsequent press release.

“Education Minister Wayne Ewasko labelled the 2023-2024 funding commitment as ‘astronomical’,” Nemeth said in the release. “This is not only misleading but suggests LRSD has suddenly been afforded the ability to look after the needs of all learners fully and completely. The realities suggest otherwise as we continue to address pandemic-related pressures and funding that for several years has not kept up to inflation, enrolment, and growing needs.”

A key factor in the mix is the continued enrolment growth in the division — LRSD has welcomed nearly 500 new students since last September — and the budget makes provision for additional classroom staff, which brings the total to 640 full-time equivalent educational assistants and 1,206 FTE teachers, including principals and vice-principals.

“Louis Riel School Division continues to be progressive, innovative, and future-oriented in ensuring all students remain engaged in their learning and want to be in school,” Nemeth added. “A budget that would eliminate teachers, staff, programs, and supports, especially with the additional needs coming out of a global pandemic, was not an option for the board.”

The budget includes the use of $2,460,697 from LRSD’s accumulated surplus. Since its inception in 2002, LRSD has not had to use surplus funds to balance its budget.

“This use of accumulated surplus to make up for a shortfall in our annual funding is not sustainable and very concerning,” Christian Michalik, LRSD’s superintendent, said in the release. “We appreciate the funding this year is more predictable, in that the Manitoba government is making the one-time funding provided to school divisions in the last two years permanent. However, given the impacts of the chronic underfunding that preceded the pandemic and the spiralling of pressures and needs, it is still insufficient.”

Visit lrsd.net for more information.

— Staff

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