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article imageOp-Ed: Manitoba provincial government to boost school spending

By Ken Hanly     Jan 28, 2013 in Politics
Winnipeg - Although the Manitoba NDP provincial government is increasing funding to schools this year, school division officials insist that the increase is not enough and the ratepayers can expect a tax increase as well.
Education Minister Nancy Allan said that the 2.3% increase in funding will have a number of benefits:“These new supports will ensure our schools have the same or increased levels of funding to keep building on programs that are producing results. Together we’re improving quality and helping students develop in math, reading and writing,”
The total increase in funding works out to $27.2 million. This is the 14th consecutive year that funding has been increased. In 2012 funding was $25.5 million. There will be new resources for anti-bullying programs and also to build stronger foundational skills in math. Northern students and those from remote communities will also receive increased support.
In spite of the increase Allan said: "But I expect school divisions with this kind of funding increase to sharpen their pencils. I expect them to look at what's happening in their school divisions, and at the end of the day they have the autonomy to make decisions."
Education boards have not yet submitted their school tax proposals to the province. Allan said that boards should look for savings and places to make cuts. The Progressive Conservative opposition in the legislature complained that the province was continuing to offload the costs of education on the taxpayer. This is a rather odd complaint, since whether paid for through the government or direct taxation, the taxpayer ultimately pays in any event. No doubt they mean that they do not want the payments to be through a property tax on local ratepayers. Conservative critic,Blaine Pedersen, said: "It's a similar increase this year. Is the trend going to continue? Will school divisions have to increase local ratepayers' taxes in order to carry this?" Some school districts with a shrinking tax base do have difficulty trying to balance their budgets through tax increases.
The government has helped to some extent by setting aside funds that ensure that divisions will not get less funds than last year. Past-president of the Manitoba Association of School Superintendents, Brian O'Leary, says that given the tough economic times the provinces $27.2 million is better than he expected. However, O'Leary admitted that some school divisions would need to raise taxes to cover increasing costs:"We'll have to be careful with our spending and careful with the tax increase, but there'll probably be some challenging spending decisions and some decision around tax increases taken by local boards."
Mike Babinsky, a trustee of the Winnipeg School Division says that the new funding may sound like a lot but really does not add up to much:"Last year, on a budget of $350 million — and we're just one school division, with 80 schools, 30,000 kids, 5,000 workers — we got an extra $50,000." Babinsky said officials with the division, the largest in the city, raised taxes by 7.8% last year and are considering another 8% hike this year.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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