The Finance Chair for Hanover School Board says they are planning for a status quo budget for the 2022-23 school year. But, Rick Peters admits the board is still very early into the budget planning process.

The board held a virtual public consultation Tuesday evening with respect to the budget. Peters says the next step is to get feedback from the community. Between October 29 and November 8, the public will be invited to share their thoughts on what should be included in next year's budget. Peters notes in the past, the board has received public feedback on anything from the need for additional teachers to a desire for more money to be spent on mental health.

"We want to make sure it's open to our public, that everyone has that opportunity to submit their ideas, obviously not all of them can be used," he says. "We still work within the constraints of a budget."

Anyone wishing to provide feedback can find the appropriate links on the Hanover School Division website.

Peters says a board planning session has been scheduled for the end of next week and that is really the start of how next year's budget gets built. However, in terms of dollars, he notes the board never knows how much funding is coming until the provincial announcement is made, typically towards the end of January.

Peters notes a key aspect of the province's funding announcement, is how much money divisions will receive per student. Typically a division is funded per student from the previous school year. However, because enrolment was down this year in Hanover School Division, the province announced it would hold enrolment numbers from the previous year. Peters says this is because the province knew that declining enrolment was a result of more families homeschooling because of COVID-19. He says there has been no indication that the province will offer the same deal for the 2022-23 school year.

"If they do decide that they are going to go with our actual numbers, that will mean a decrease in funding of about $1.7 million," explains Peters.

According to Peters, the province recommends divisions have reserves of about four per cent. As of June 30th, Hanover's reserve was 1.3 per cent or about $1.25 million. Peters says while there is no provincial mandate that divisions have reserves of four per cent, if Hanover were to bring it to that level, it would mean trying to find another $2.6 million.

Meanwhile, Peters reminds the public of a few education announcements made by the province. First of all, Manitoba has changed the way it funds education, and as a result, Manitobans have been receiving education rebate cheques in recent months. The other announcement is that Bill 64 has been scrapped.