Our board of trustees is working on developing a balanced budget for the 2021-22 school year. To be clear, this is no easy feat. The realities of the current pandemic, our growing communities, inflation and a recent arbitration award means Pembina Trails trustees have been faced with difficult decisions. Adding to the challenge is a provincial directive to freeze the property tax levy, across the province, leaving no option for our board to raise funds, through taxation. To put forward a proposed balanced draft budget, we must cut more than $7 million in expenditures intended to support projected enrolment growth and increased staffing costs.
In mid-February, an arbitration board unanimously awarded the Pembina Trails Teachers’ Association provisions for four-year teacher salary increases with a total estimated value of $12.5 million. This award impacts teacher salaries from 2018/19 through 2021/22. By provincial directive, our board was prohibited from including any salary increases during 2018-2019 and 2019-2020.
“There is no way we can avoid reductions in services to our students. With no taxation authority and insufficient funding from the province, we are left in an unfortunate position. We propose using our modest surplus and deferring infrastructure needs across the division in an effort to minimize the negative impact on student learning,” said McMillan.
Our board is recommending a draft budget that, although balanced, will affect the educational experience our community has come to expect in Pembina Trails.
At a glance
* Draft budget combined operating and capital expenditures $183,156,077
* Increase in combined operating and capital expenditures $2.5 million or 1.4 per cent
* Percentage reduction in school taxes on the average homeowner 2.6 per cent or $4.92 a month.
The main source of financial support comes from the province. The current provincial directive does not allow our board to raise additional funds through local property taxation. In lieu of raising local property taxes, the province is providing a Property Tax Offset Grant (PTOG) in the net amount of $2,166,351.
Projected impact on taxpayers
As directed by the province, the property tax levy for home and business owners will be frozen at 2020 levels. The typical homeowner with a house valued at $438,700 would see a decrease of $59 a year or $4.92 a month in 2021 school taxes.
A look at some of the proposed operation and administrative reductions
* Increasing high school class sizes
* Eliminating high school teacher-librarians and reducing the number in middle years
* Reducing English Additional Language specialists in K-8
* Reducing divisional-based allocation for educational assistant staff
* Reducing school instructional budgets
* Deferring the Kindergarten Here We Come program during the 2021-22 school year
* Placing a number of building maintenance and ongoing improvement projects on hold
* Pembina Trails continues to grow. We are projecting 335 new students in 2021/22. In a year of underfunding, this means the 19 new teaching positions, at a cost of $1.9 million, needed to support our students cannot be created. We are not able to add the necessary teachers to maintain current class sizes.
* The recent Pembina Trails Teachers’ Association arbitration award totaling $12.5
million over four years means that we need to divert funding to cover the
* The cost of running safe schools during COVID-19 came with unforeseen investments such as hiring new teachers, educational assistants, remote learning consultants and caretakers.
* Our board also invested in 860 webcams for classrooms to support remote teaching and learning, as well as the installation of a new security fob system for schools.
Thanks for your feedback
Thanks to those who took the time to share comments and thoughts on budget 2021-22. Our board appreciated hearing from community delegations during a special draft budget meeting that was held on March 4, 2021. Public feedback is still welcomed, via email, to email@example.com