'It's going to be tough': Pembina Trails School Division releases draft budget which is full of difficult decisions
WINNIPEG -- The board of trustees for the Pembina Trails School Division is facing a tough task when it comes to building a proposed budget for the 2021-22 school year.
"Without doubt this has been the most difficult budget that I and the board has faced since my career as a trustee. We have encountered a necessity to make some very, very difficult decisions," said Kathleen McMillan, who is the chair of the board of trustees.
The board released its draft budget on Friday and cited several difficult situations such as growing communities, inflation, an arbitration awarded to the teachers' association and on top of that there is the provincial freeze on the property tax levy and the pandemic.
The current draft budget would see the school division spend just over $183 million.
"We have a number of things on the table. Our primary concern is to ensure that any cuts that are needed will not negatively affect the children in the classroom."
Some of the proposals for the budget include increasing high school class sizes, eliminating high school teacher-librarians, reducing the number of educational assistants, reducing instructional budgets, pushing the kindergarten "Here We Come" program to another year and putting building maintenance and improvement projects on hold.
"It's going to be tough, I have no doubt it is going to be a very tough year for our administrators. We are fortunate here that we have very resourceful administrators and principals and I know for a fact they will do everything to minimize those impacts but if I were to tell you there won't be impacts, I would be wrong."
She added that the experience students have had at Pembina Trails in the past will not be the same experience they will have during the next school year.
As part of the draft budget, the school division expects to add 335 new students for the upcoming school year.
It said it has also added 860 webcams to classrooms to help support remote learning and it has also installed a new security fob system for schools.
The school division said it would like to hear feedback from the community and people are invited to email the division or appear as a delegation at a virtual board meeting on March 4.
McMillan said they welcome all feedback and comments and noted that this is a draft budget and some tweaks could be made but is reminding everyone that when there is underfunding an increase in expenses, it makes for difficult decisions.