Winnipeg school trustees pass 2019/20 budget, frustrated over what they call province’s influence

Winnipeg School Division (WSD) trustees approved their 2019/2020 budget on Monday but they said they were “handcuffed” to do so because of requirements set out by the province.

The trustees dropped their preliminary budget’s call for a 2.9-per-cent property tax increase, which was defying the province’s cap.

The current budget will result in an increase of $35 per year to the average home’s tax bill.

Trustee Mark Wasyliw said the division was forced to make the decision and added that the budget wasn’t its own, but rather one decided by Premier Brian Pallister and Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen.

“We no longer have a partner in education,” he said, adding the province and the school division are fighting over $6 per house.

“The current education policies of this government is basically writing off students who are struggling.”

Wasyliw said he’s worried about what will happen if the province doesn’t increase funding.

“There’s no where else to cut. We are at the end of the line,” he said.

“If this continues, we will have to cut valuable programs that will have direct impact on the delivery of classroom services.”

Goertzen’s office released a statement on the budget being passed.

“We are pleased to see that the Winnipeg School Division was able to do what every other school division in Manitoba could. We are committed as a government to providing support to students and protecting taxpayers.”

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Goertzen said any school division that ignores a provincial directive from earlier this year to cap property tax increases will be forced to cut administration costs.

Trustee Jamie Dumont said the province “handcuffed” the division with the threat.

“It doesn’t allow us to respond to the calls in the community for supports.”

“The minister decided it was more important for us to listen to him than the thoughts of the community.”

Wasyliw said being forced to cut administration costs will put the division in dire straits.

“We would lose over $1 million worth of staff that way, and right now we’re struggling because our administration costs are so low to begin with. We could not survive a further cut.”

Wasyliw said this has been one of the saddest and most frustrating budgets in his eight-year career and that he’s considering legal action against the province.

“This is not what this board has asked for. This has been an attack on public education and it’s a sad day for local democracy.”

The Winnipeg School Division shared the following open letter to Premier Brian Pallister on education funding in Manitoba:

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