On Tuesday, Feb. 23, students, staff and community members packed the Louis Riel School Division (LRSD) Draft Budget virtual meeting room to get a look at the division’s proposed financial future.
More than 200 people registered for the event that was hosted by Louise Johnston, LRSD Board of Trustees Chair and featured a presentation from Neil Vadeboncoeur, LRSD Finance and Audit Committee Chair. Other presenters included Marna Kenny, LRSD Secretary-Treasurer, Pamela Kolochuk, LRSD Board of Trustees vice-chair, and Christian Michalik, Superintendent, for the two-hour live-streamed public consultation.
“This year’s budget illustrates the Board's commitment to providing the LRSD community with excellent education in a safe and caring manner,” said Vadeboncoeur. “The most challenging part of this budget was balancing the diverse programming needs of the division while also ensuring the extensive measures needed to protect staff, students and the community continue to be in place.”
The evening began with a detailed breakdown of the pandemic’s financial impact in the division. These expenditures of more than $7 million as of Jan. 31 include:
- More than $3.3 million on staffing
- $861,991 on additional cleaning supplies
- $1.5 million on technology
- More than $581,000 on infrastructure
- $350,000 on increased bus runs
“Preparing this year's budget has been one of the most challenging given the complexity around the costs related to the pandemic,” said Johnston. “I hope that our community and staff see that we worked hard to protect the core investments and staff that support our students now and in an uncertain future.”
By the end of the current school year, LRSD is projecting that the pandemic will cost $13 million dollars.
"If our projections are correct, we'll need another $2 million to cover pandemic expenses, but we're hopeful that the provincial government can provide those additional funds," said Michalik. "If not, it could mean reductions, and reductions of this size in public education means fewer people because public education is people, not stuff. However, now is not the time to lay-off staff. This means we must exhaust our accumulated surplus to balance our budget and avoid seeing fewer staff serving students in LRSD."