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Border Land School Division administrators are heavily involved in budget formulations for the upcoming 2017/18 school year, taking a hard look at expenses following the PC government's provincial funding announcement earlier this month. The Manitoba government has pledged to increase public school support by $13.1 million dollars, or 1 percent, which will sustain the overall provincial budget of $1.3 billion per year.

BLSD Secretary-Treasurer Rachel Geirnaert says, however, that is not the case in her school division, adding that while officials weren't expecting an increase in funding for the Division they were disappointed to hear that funding had in fact been decreased instead of maintained. She explains Border Land will instead see a 2 percent, or $306,000 decrease in provincial funding for 2017/18.

"The division is experiencing declining enrollment and (relies) on the formula guarantee as well as equalization to supplement the funding, and both of these amounts were reduced with the current funding model that was given by the province."

Geirnaert describes how these numbers impact the budget formulations that are currently underway.

She adds the area of most concern is salaries which are budgeted at $27 million for 2017/18. Teachers have negotiated a 1.5 percent increase for September and another 1.5 percent increase for next January. Support staff have also negotiated a 2.5 percent increase.

"So even if we had received the additional one per cent from the province that would translate to about three hundred and eighty thousand dollars, it wouldn't have covered the cost of salary increase which is about one-point-zero-nine million. So it doesn't leave any room at all for the cost of living increase that we are expecting to be at about two-point-three percent."

Geirnaert explains the Board is now pondering all of this information and will be taking it to the public for feedback at a consultation meeting planned for February 15th in Dominion City. She says some tough questions will need to be considered.

"How can we balance the financial impact with the impact on students, programming that has made a positive difference for the students, and equity across our division?"

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