School division budget includes deep dive into surplus

Mill rate remains same

The Flin Flon School Division (FFSD) has had to dig deep to maintain funding levels in this year’s budget.

Due to changes in funding from the provincial education ministry for this fiscal year, the division will cover shortfalls by raiding its war chest, spending more than half the division’s existing surplus.

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“This year, our board made a major decision. We have decreased the surplus to approximately 1.5 per cent. The government recommends between three to four and this budget will sit at 1.5,” said trustee Murray Skeavington, who presented the division budget on Feb. 20.

The school division is expected to take in $14,872,355 in total revenue, but spend $14,917,510 in operating expenditures, a slight increase from last year. This leaves a hole of $45,156 that will be paid for out of the division’s surplus, to cover funding and spending gaps.

Originally, the amount of provincial funding for the school division for 2018-2019 was announced as $9,474,002. However, a decrease in equalization meant the real amount received would be $9,232,644, a gap of just under $250,000.

Using the surplus will keep this year’s mill rate the same as last year, staying at 21.46. That rate will lead to a decrease of around $120,000 to the last municipal revenue request made.

In total, the division will spend $7,778,006 on regular instruction, which includes costs relating to K-12 classrooms, teachers, textbooks, computers and other expenses.

Another $2,944,418 will be spent on student support services, such as costs for students with special needs, counselling, guidance, special-ed coordinators, student service administrators and clerical administrators. Just over $2.3 million will be spent on operations and maintenance.

Student enrolment in the division increased from 950 in Sept. 2017 to 980 at the beginning of this school year.

The division’s budget included $225,500 in requests, among them a $65,000 investment in a new mass notification and lockdown system, $33,000 in shop safety upgrades at École McIsaac School, $105,000 for three new educational assistant positions, and about $10,000 for new technology, such as iPads and Chromebooks.

Another $220,500 in requests were removed from the budget.

For the first time, the division held an online budget consultation process this year, providing an opportunity for members of the public to ask trustees questions about school division spending. Almost 40 questions from the public consultation were discussed at the presentation, with answers provided on the FFSD website.

One question was whether the pending closure of Hudbay mining facilities in Flin Flon in 2021 will impact school division operations. Skeavington said the division has needed to create a plan in case of mass enrolment changes.

“Division staff is in the process of developing a drawdown plan as part of the mine closure,” he said.

“We have tasked our senior admin to come down with some downsizing plans. We’re in the process of looking into that.”

FFSD superintendent Constance McLeese said all options are being looked at, but any discussion regarding the issue should not only involve the division’s administration.

“This is a community decision and we need community input,” said McLeese.

“I’ve asked staff to look at all scenarios – what are the pros and cons – so it’s broken down and we’ll be able to make an informed decision based on our best projections of what we think the student population is going to be with the drawdown. That’s still not absolutely evident.”

“The government itself may solve all of the leadership and superintendents and assistants. That could be a moot point in six months,” Skeavington joked darkly, referring to a provincial education review that may end with the amalgamation of school boards and divisions across Manitoba, including in Flin Flon.

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