The Louis Riel School Board ratified its 2019–2020 budget on the evening of Tuesday, March 12, 2019. The budget supports a growing and diverse student population by funding existing and new frontline staffing positions, essentially 11 new teachers, 2.5 new student services teachers and 20 new educational assistants. We achieve this measured effort to protect frontline staff and make targeted investments to enhance public education in LRSD by increasing the Special Requirement on local property taxes by 2% and reducing operating expenses.
We shared a great deal of information at our public budget consultation meeting in February. I thought I would share some key highlights.
Key Highlights from the Consultation
First, let's look at who we are in LRSD.
We are a growing school division and we project that growth to continue for the next decade.
Our growth is due in large part to new developments in Sage Creek, Bonavista Estates, and south of Aldgate in River Park South. Our growth is also due to the community welcoming newcomer Canadians to help propel the economic vitality of our city and our province.
One important way we support our growing newcomer student population is to help them learn English. In 2018-2019, 29 staff are supporting 11% of our total student population to learn English as an additional language.
These specialized staff members support our
frontline classroom teachers. The Board has made these frontline staff members a priority. In 2018-2019, 825.79 full-time equivalent (FTE) classroom teachers are caring for 15,458 students.
These 825.79 (FTE) classroom teachers also serve a growing diversity of student needs. In 2018-2019, they are supported by 451.26 (FTE) dedicated educational assistants in the classroom, 144.20 (FTE) student support services teachers and 46 (FTE) clinical services staff.
And, although the Board's focus has been to grow our educational frontline staff to serve the needs of students, educators are supported by a cadre of devoted custodial, clerical, technical, and transportation staff that has largely remained unchanged to support the growing student and educational staff populations in our schools.
So, how has the Board achieved increases in frontline staff to support growing enrolments, growing newcomer populations, growing diversity of student needs, greater equity, greater capacity, and maintaining reasonable class sizes, while also finding dollars to repair aging infrastructure and add spaces to overcrowded schools? And, how will we continue to do the same in 2019-2020 and beyond?
Let's look at the revenue sources.
What we've seen in terms of revenue is a shift to the local property owner. When we look at the provincial funding of schools in LRSD in 2013–2014, it was
52%, in contrast to 45% in 2019–2020. Thankfully, LRSD is a growing community, with a growing property tax base.
Shifts from the Board Office to the classroom have also been an important way we've achieved increases to frontline staff (classroom teachers and educational assistants).
Long before the recent call for belt tightening, we had made shifts to reduce the number of staff
members in the Board Office as a means of redistributing resources to increase frontline staff, including reductions to the Senior Leadership Team and Coordinators.
Through your tax contributions, ongoing efforts to find efficiencies and redistribute resources, we have been able to keep class sizes manageable.
Each year, the School Board also responsibly uses some of its
surplus (collected mainly from our International Student Program fees) to address school system and societal inequities that impact our students' ability to achieve improved outcomes.
Achieving a Balanced Budget for 2019-2020
Due to limited revenue (2% increase to the Special Requirement and 1.2% Provincial Funding Increase), it is impossible to meet all the system's needs. And, just how can we protect the investments we have made to address growing societal inequities and ageing infrastructure?
To achieve a balanced budget that looks after students by maintaining the frontline (classroom teachers and educational assistants) and protects investments for 2019–2020, the Board will need to consider some of the following:
Increasing class size (We will limit this change to a very small increase to the average class size.)
- Reducing the
Looking at it another way, the majority of the 2019–2020 budget goes towards regular instruction and student support services (a combined total of 77%); another 10% goes to operations and maintenance; and 2% goes to transportation. Community activities (Adult Learning Centres, and Community Education and Services) make up a combined 2%, while Instructional and Pupil Support Services make up 4%. Divisional Administration is capped by the province at 2.7%, and 2% represents Fiscal and Transfers to Capital.
Some community members may be upset about belt tightening measures. Others may be upset to see their taxes increase. We hope that by trimming operating expenses, protecting frontline classroom instruction, and minimizing increases to class sizes, we are finding a middle ground, sensible approach that respects the needs of the taxpayer, keeps our budget in line with the Minister of Education's expectations, and invests in the most important thing of all—our kids, and the next generation.
-Christian Michalik, Superintendent