Trustees for the Border Land School Division have approved a $39 million budget for 2023/24 - a $1.4 million, or 3.8 per cent increase, over 2022/23.

The division has schools in Sprague, Vita and Dominion City here in the southeast. Nearly all of the budget, $38.5 million, will go to paying operating expenses.

"Salaries are always our largest component of the operating budget but, as everyone knows, in 2022 we saw an average inflation rate of 7.8 per cent and we have seen significant increases in our fuel, parts and insurance. That directly affects our expenses and the amounts we're having to pay," explains Secretary-Treasurer, Rachel Geirnaert. 

While the board was able to balance the operating expenses, Geirnaert says it will be a deficit for the $500,000 capital budget. Unable to raise local education property taxes because of a mandate from the provincial government, the board hopes to make up the difference down the road.

"With the provincial announcement of additional capital dollars being directed towards school divisions, we are hopeful that we will be in receipt of some additional funds to assist with the capital projects we have planned. However, if that does not materialize, we'll be using our surplus dollars to fund some of the projects that we need to complete," says Geirnaert.

Those improvements include ongoing flooring and cabinet updates in the division's various buildings, along with replacing a number of public announcement systems in the schools. As well, plans are to improve the vapour barrier and brickwork in some problem areas at a few schools. These are projects that Geirnaert says need to happen, noting the budget does not include any wish-list items. 

Board Chair, Patty Wiebe, adds, the priority during these latest budget deliberations was to keep the impact to student learning to a minimum. 

Ultimately, the board was able to maintain current staffing and programs, aside from areas of declining enrolment where a reduction in staff was necessary, notes Geirnaert.

And what does all of this mean for the education portion of your upcoming property tax bills?

With most properties located within Border Land School Division experiencing an increase in assessment this year, the division's mill rate will go down, resulting in a decrease, explains Geirnaert. That translates into a reduction of $180 in education property taxes for homes assessed at $250,000 in 2022 and 2023.