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Budget cuts go deep in Border Land School Division

At a recent community consultation meeting, Border Land School Division board members discussed how they plan to manage the budget, in spite of a $1.4 million deficit.

At a recent community consultation meeting, Border Land School Division board members discussed how they plan to manage the budget, in spite of a $1.4 million deficit.

ALTONA - 

Border Land School Division is dealing with a substantial budget cut for the coming year.
At a recent community consultation meeting, the board of trustees shared that the division will have a $35.3 million budget to work with for 2018/2019.
This means they’ll have to slash their spending by $1.4 million.
In compliance with a provincial mandate, the division will also limit special requirement increases to a maximum two per cent.
According to BLSD secretary-treasurer Rachel Geirnaert, this will result in only $400,000 in tax revenues over the current year, which will mean some juggling when it comes to balancing the budget.
She added that in spite of a teacher wage freeze, the division still has to honour confirmed maternity leaves and previously negotiated wage increases in teachers’ contracts. 
Superintendent Krista Curry said they’ve done all they can to make sure the cuts wouldn’t impact programs and services.
“We just had to look at our proposed budget after the funding announcement came out about keeping the special requirement at two percent and find ways to cut. We feel very confident that we are not negatively impacting programs and classes right now, but if it continues to go this way, we know that is what’s going to have to happen next, because we’ve trimmed for two years in a row to get down to the bare bones.”
Curry said that at this point, it’s been trimming here and there, like withdrawing some maintenance items, possibly reducing a few bus routes, and removing the board/admin retreat.
In terms of technology, to save costs, they’ve also moved from a 4-year equipment refresh to a 5-year rotation.
“So far, we haven’t had to cut a significant number of teachers. So that still keeps us feeling happy. I still think Border Land School Division is a great, progressive division and I don’t think we’ve lost any of that. We just know that the projection for the future is significant fiscal restraint from the province, and we started talking about that this year.”
Curry says trustees have been told by the province that everything is on the table right now, including potentially amalgamating some of the 37 divisions, and limiting local boards’ abilities to tax.
“If that happens, there would be a significant consultation process across the province, and when those consultations come out, as a public we need to have our voices heard.”
Looking forward, she says she feels the board is very strong, and is going to find ways to ride through this storm.
“Our senior admin team is very connected and we work very well together. I feel like if we’re going to go through some turmoil, we have a good team. But we have an election coming up, so our team may look quite different. It would be sad to see any of them go.”
Board chair Craig Smiley says most residents and businesses in the division will see a decrease in taxes, while farmers could see a substantial increase because of assessment.
“The biggest challenge is that we don’t have any fluff left in our budget. We are down basically to where we have to start cutting positions and increasing class sizes. It’s unfortunate, but it is the way it is. I’m hoping the provincial government comes out with a new formula for funding, and I’m hoping it works for all the school divisions.”
Cuts have been proposed in the following areas:
- Technology
- Professional Development
- Transportation
- Staffing
- Major equipment grants
- Student Support Services
- French language
Translation to Tax Bills:
- Assessment values
        - Residential decreased
        - Farmland increased
- Special Requirement increased by 2%
- Special levy proposed decreased for 2018/2019 by $900,000
- Mill rate 2017/2018  16.9
- Proposed Mill rate 2018/2019  14 .4