Manitoba

3 school divisions in Winnipeg pass budgets, deadline looms for others

With less than a week left to get their 2018 budgets in before the province's deadline, three of Winnipeg’s six school divisions have handed their annual planning assignments in early.

Pembina Trails, Seven Oaks and River East Transcona have approved their 2018 budgets

Pembina Trails and Seven Oaks released their budgets Friday and River East Transcona School Division officially released their final plan for 2018 Thursday. (Dave Gaudet/CBC)

With less than a week left to get their 2018 budgets in before the province's deadline, three of Winnipeg's six school divisions have handed their annual planning assignments in early.

Pembina Trails and Seven Oaks school divisions revealed their budgets Friday, and River East Transcona School Division officially released its final plan for 2018 Thursday.

All three divisions were able to meet the province's request that divisions keep their increase in special requirement tax to no more than two per cent this year.

Meeting the requirement was a challenge for trustees at Seven Oaks School Division, says superintendent Brian O'Leary.

O'Leary says Seven Oaks was further squeezed in its budgeting process because the division has a limited commercial assessment compared to other divisions in the city.

"Most of our growth has been residential, so it puts an unfair tax load on homeowners because there simply isn't enough commercial property in our school division to balance the tax load," he told CBC News. "We still need the [provincial] government to do more to address those issues of fairness across the board."

Seven Oaks held its budget increase to 2.35 per cent for expenditures, which will result in a tax increase of $72.29 per year on an average home valued at $297,000.

Pembina Trails

In Pembina Trails, where the average home value is $408,222, the average increase as a result of this year's budget will be $42. Superintendent Ted Fransen says the budget will see the division's combined operating and capital expenditures increase by $4.9 million.

Pembina Trail is planning a new division-wide science, technology, engineering and mathematics program for high school students starting this fall, through a partnership with the Manitoba Institute of Trades and Technology and the Information and Communication Technologies Association of Manitoba.

"We're very excited about this initiative," said Fransen. "It's a great thing for kids and there's certainly a need for that skill in Winnipeg and in Manitoba, and we're proud to be launching it."

River East

River East School Division's $195.6-million budget will see school taxes go up 2.3 per cent this year, meaning a homeowner with a home valued at $277,900 will see a $38 jump in their tax bill.

Rod Giesbrecht, who chairs the River East School Division's finance board, says the division was able to maintain current programs and services through this year's budget thanks in part to an increase in enrolment, which means an increase in provincial funding.

"It's welcome because under the previous government we had five years with zero dollar increase," he said. "That was a very awkward time."

River East's per pupil spending — $11,759 — is the lowest in the metro Winnipeg area, according to a release from the division, which says the provincial average $13,187.

The city's remaining three divisions — St. James-Assiniboia, Winnipeg School Division, and Louis Riel — have until March 15 to pass their final budgets.

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