The Fort la Bosse School Division passed a budget this week that will see four out of 10 trustee positions cut along with other cost-saving measures.
"It's the first time in my 20 years with the division that our budget has gone down from one year to the next instead of up," said Secretary Treasurer Kent Reid.
FLBSD operates ten schools in Virden, Elkhorn, Kola, Reston, Oak Lake and two colonies with a $19 million total annual budget.
About $200,000 of that total was cut in order to balance the 2018-19 budget, a move necessitated by the provincial government's education funding controls.
No classroom impacts
The unanimous vote to approve the division’s budget at the Mar. 12 meeting was greeted with a round of applause from trustees around the boardroom table, saying they were pleased with what they called a "team effort" to reduce expenditures without touching education, even though it was at the expense of their own positions.
The board will be reduced in number come this fall when one trustee is eliminated from each of four wards. The new configuration will take effect Nov. 1.
Board chair Garry Draper said there was nothing else to trim. "It's tough because we're losing four trustees at the table, and that reduces community input. The board will still be available to parents, but it's four less voices."
No new buses
The number of board meetings will also be reduced, and $100,000 will be scrimped on transportation, mainly bus replacement.
Draper explained, "We've got 35 or 36 buses, the average lifespan is 12 to15 years. In the past, we've replaced two buses per year which keeps the fleet current. Cutting that might come back to bite us, but this was all we could do to cut our costs and stay out of classrooms."
Jobs safe this time
Under the budget, no teachers' jobs, administration positions or classroom resources will be reduced this coming school year.
But Draper says that could change when the next budget rolls around.
"Next year, we'll have to see if the Province continues on this path of reductions in funding. Then it will be a different ball game. We may have to look at staff and the classroom, but everybody's safe for this year."
In February, Manitoba’s Education Minister announced a number of changes to school funding, among them a 15 per cent reduction in administration cost caps, a .5 per cent increase in funding (half of last year’s amount), and a directive that divisions limit their education property tax hikes to no more than two per cent.
Fort la Bosse School Division has flagged the last point as a concern, saying restricting the ability of school divisions to levy education property taxes will result in “some difficult decisions” that could affect programming; 42 per cent of the FLBSD budget comes from property taxes.