SDML looking to reduce budget by 1.8 per cent for 2019-20 school year

On Feb. 28, the School District of Mystery Lake (SDML) board unveiled their proposed budget for the upcoming school year, which evens out to $ 41,960,427.

Compared to their 2018-19 budget of $42,734,725, this means the district will have approximately $774,300 less to work with and are cutting back on services (-$4,250), supplies (-$17,000) and employee benefits (-$999,300).

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However, salaries are seeing an overall increase of $235,852.

This represents the third straight year that the SDML’s budget has contracted, with the district sporting $44,095,724 in expenditures and income back in 2017-18.

Secretary-treasurer Kelly Knott said the 2019-20 budget is being affected by a variety of factors, including the SDML’s increased demand for student supports (especially since their special needs funding hasn’t changed since 2016).

Overall, the district will be receiving $32,193,295, the province has announced, which is 2.6 per cent more than the adjusted provincial funding of $31,379,338 it received for 2018-19, which was lower than the figure of $33,243,898 that the province announced in February 2018. That was a result of a $136,645 reduction in categorical student support and $1,727,915 less in equalization. The announced funding could change next January or December when estimated funding is adjusted.

About 16 per cent of the district’s budget comes from property taxes in Thompson. The mill rate for the education portion of property taxes will drop slightly this year to 18.548, from 18.62 in 2018. This will result in a drop of about 0.4 per cent in education property taxes this year.

Thompson Teachers’ Association president Cathy Pellizzaro said in a Feb. 27 letter to the Thompson Citizen that the province’s funding increments over the last three years have been below the rate of inflation, which constitutes cuts in her eyes.

In a follow-up interview, she said this recent public presentation from the SDML confirms her fears about the fate of important school programs.

“The full-day kindergarten will be cut and another program, Success for Learners from R.D. Parker, will be cut as well,” said Pellizzaro. “So this definitely impacts students in the division. It gives them less contact time with teachers, it means bigger classes, so we’re very concerned.”

The SDML’s board of trustees will vote on whether or not they approve this proposed 2019-20 budget at their March 12 regular meeting. If the trustees give it the green light, the SDML will have to submit the budget to the province no later than March 31.

Anyone interested in viewing the Feb. 28 budget presentation in full can do so by visiting the “documents” section of the district’s website.

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