School district budget going up but revenue obtained through property taxation going down

The School District of Mystery Lake (SDML) budget for the 2021-22 school year is 2.84 per cent higher than the current year’s budget but the portion funded by property taxes is actually slightly down from what it was last year.

The proposed budget, which must be submitted to the city by March 15 and to the province by March 31, was presented by district secretary-treasurer Kelly Knott via Zoom and Facebook live Feb. 24.

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Expected expenditures for next school year are $43,997,548, up $1.2 million from this year’s budget of $42,782,417.

The increase is driven by increases in services, which includes utilities, as well as in salaries and employee benefits. 

Benefits will see the highest overall increase as they are expected to cost the school district  $798,218 more than in the current school year and account for nearly 10 per cent of the 2021-22 budget, compared to 8.35 per cent this year.

“We are seeing a lot of activity with regards to our benefits this year and insurance rates throughout the industry are rising and it’s impacting our benefit level,” Knott said.

The education portion of property taxes will be assessed at a mill rate of 20.470, down from 20.751 in 2020, with the total amount this is expected to generate coming in at $8,906,065 compared to $8,982,294 in 2020.

School district were instructed by the province to freeze property taxes at no more than their 2020 levels. To offset this, the province provided SDML with $108,000 in funding.

SDML has one of the highest proportions of provincial funding in the province, accounting for 82 per cent of its revenue this year, while property taxes make up 16 per cent. Knott says the averages across the province are for school districts to receive about 59 per cent of their revenue through provincial funding and 35 per cent from property taxation.

Provincial funding for SDML was up $845,000 from the 2020-21 adjusted amount, in part because the province included students who have transferred to homeschooling and students that were not in attendance on Sept. 30 in their funding amount.

“We’ve had a lot of difficulty with students not coming to school because of the pandemic,” Knott said. “We’ve been very fortunate in this funding cycle that we did not have adjusted enrolment amounts and the province has suspended a lot of phasing out of tax grants. This coming year, we’re good. We’ll have to see where we are next year and the following year.”

The district expects to use about $239,000 of its expected surplus on June 30 to cover costs next school year.

There are also a lot of unknown factors that could affect costs next year, including if instruction will be back to something resembling normalcy and the effects of the province’s soon-to-be-released kindergarten to Grade 12 education review.

“We are looking at in-class learning and we are assuming our class sizes will resume back in the 20 to 25 class size range,” Knott said. “We definitely have increased expenditures due to the pandemic.”

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