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Western SD exhibits 2018/19 budget

Lauren MacGill

Board chair Brian Fransen shared the 2018/19 Western School Division budget at their annual budget exhibit at Morden Collegiate on Feb. 28. (LAUREN MACGILL, Morden Times)

Board chair Brian Fransen shared the 2018/19 Western School Division budget at their annual budget exhibit at Morden Collegiate on Feb. 28. (LAUREN MACGILL, Morden Times)

MORDEN - 

Western School Division held their annual Budget Exhibition at Morden Collegiate on Feb. 28.

The provincial funding estimate for the 2018/19 school year is based on enrolment in 2017/18. The total budget is $21.2 million, an increase of 3.07 per cent.

This year, Western School Division board chair Brian Fransen said it was tough to fit all of the division’s needs within available funding. “It was a big challenge this year,” he said. “This was the most difficult budget year that I’ve had in 12 years of being a trustee. The challenge was how do we make it work without having a negative impact on students and staff in the classroom. That was our big problem.”

The school division did see an increase in funding of about $350,000 from the province, but Fransen said that since enrolment is increasing as well that money won’t go as far.

One of those challenges was the fact that Ecole Morden Middle School will have to add two more classes for 5th grade students. “When we’re looking at adding two classes it sounds like a small amount,” he said. “A big chunk of that $350,000 goes into paying for those two classes and we still have to do a whole bunch of other things.”

The school division is also anticipating the largest kindergarten class ever.

Enrolment is set to rise by just over 200 students from 1671 to 1885 for 2018/19.

With the cap on the special requirement set at 2 per cent, a house valued at $275,000 last year will generally be valued 6 per cent higher, but due to the drop in mill rate from 16.61 to 15.38, that household would actually see a tax reduction of about $38.

Western School Division Secretary/Treasurer Carl Pedersen said the decrease comes partly because of rising assessments of farmland. “$1 million worth of farmland on average assessment rose about 23 per cent, so they’re looking at about $600 on that $1 million parcel of land,” he said. “It’s certainly an increase and unfortunately that’s the way things get parcelled out.”

Salary costs rose almost 3.8 per cent. “Although for this upcoming year the legislation is a zero per cent increase, all our unionized contracts were split in their raises last year,” Pedersen said. “So there’s that second part of the year that makes the 2018/19 total larger even if there’s no change. We’re going to have to have two additional classrooms at the middle school so again, to hire the staff for that is a fair amount of money.”

“All those things lean toward increases in staffing costs,” he added. “That’s 80 per cent of our organization, that’s what drives our organization.”

The school division also had to reduce their administrative costs by 15 per cent. Pedersen said the school has also been putting money into professional development and has seen improvements in the classroom.