Rising property values buoy SRSD budget
Increasing property assessments are reducing budgetary constraints in Seine River School Division heading into the upcoming 2023-24 school year, even as the division continues to grapple with the twin pressures of enrolment growth and economic inflation.
During a Tuesday board meeting in Lorette, trustees adopted a $62.6-million budget that includes a spending increase of $2.8 million or 4.8 percent coupled with a $194 decrease in education property taxes for the average homeowner.
That’s made possible by a 7.1 percent increase in provincial funding and a 10 percent increase in property assessments, trustees were told two weeks ago at a public budget presentation.
The budget includes the purchase of three new school buses. Secretary-treasurer Scott Carleton said a fourth school bus may be purchased using the division’s $3 million surplus. The growing division typically buys four to six school buses per year.
Carleton said the division’s enrolment growth is fueled by immigration, the development of new residential neighbourhoods in bedroom communities near Winnipeg, and pandemic homeschoolers returning to the classroom.
Carleton said inflation and supply chain issues will cause dramatic increases to salaries and other fixed costs over the next several years. Staff salaries and benefits will account for 82 percent of the division’s total spending during the next school year.
Priorities for trustees during pre-budget deliberations included small class sizes, student mental health supports, French immersion options, technology investments, and the continuation of K-4 busing for any student living between 800 metres and 1,600 metres from an elementary school.
Supt. Ryan Anderson said one in three Seine River students is enrolled in a French immersion program, the highest per capita figure in Manitoba.
Operating expenditures in Seine River work out to $12,711 per pupil, which is 6.6 percent below the provincial average.
Board chair Wendy Bloomfield was unable to comment on the budget at press time due to illness.
Seine River is home to 4,800 students and 330 full-time equivalent teaching positions spread across 15 schools and four auxiliary learning centres.
The division’s 21,000-sq-km catchment area stretches from La Salle to Woodridge. Division school buses travel 1.6 million kilometres per year along more than 60 bus routes.