At a public consultation meeting this week, the Hanover school board shared a grim look at finances for the upcoming budget.
“For us to adopt a status quo budget, we will require provincial assistance once wage settlements are known,” says Hanover Finance Chair Danielle Funk. “Or, if we budget for wage increases as wealthier school divisions are, we would need to cut the equivalent of 27 teaching positions or consider other options.”
Some of the options would be to do away with psychologists, field trip transportation, bus purchases, crossing guards, as well as the Grade 2 swim program.
“Staffing reductions, cutting teaching positions, will result in larger class sizes, less help for students with additional needs, and fewer course options,” says Funk.
Even with additional provincial funding of $1,979,000 and other revenue, Funk says that does not cover the additional costs of inflation and wages estimated at $4,857,000.
“We’re in trouble,” says Funk. “We’re not a school division that isn’t careful with our money. We really take pride in being fiscally responsible in trying to keep our costs down and it shows. Our cost per student is lower than the provincial average, and our admin costs are lowest in the province.”
Superintendent Shelley Amos says the minimal increase in provincial funding is not enough to support the educational needs of students in Hanover.
“In order for us to accomplish our mission and our priorities and our deeper learning vision, we believe that education needs robust funding provided by the Manitoba government,” says Amos. “And we believe that the funding we received this year is not the astronomical amount that they’ve published out in the media thus far.”
The province recommends school divisions have a reserve fund of 4% of their budget. Hanover is reporting 3.1% and trustees anticipate having to access some of those funds this year to make up for lack of money from the province.
Board Chair Ron Falk expresses disappointment with how these numbers work out in Hanover, saying it is a “big blow” to the division.
“In reality for Hanover, it is not really that good,” he says. “We’re going to have a very challenging task in front of us where we have to cut a substantial amount of money out of the budget. Frankly, it’s going to be somewhat painful, very painful.”
The Hanover School Division is planning to meet with Steinbach MLA Kelvin Goertzen to discuss these challenges.
Following the public consultation meeting, the school board held its regular meeting and approved an 11.99 mill rate for 2023 which is a decrease of 1.75 mills.
This will result in an approximate $44 savings for taxpayers with a home valued at $289,000.
The Hanover School Division is inviting the public to contribute to the budget conversation by submitting questions and comments via email at email@example.com and we can expect those questions and responses to be published on their website.