Q&A and PowerPoint Presentation—Virtual Budget Information Evening—March 2, 2023
On March 2, 2023, the RETSD board of trustees hosted a second Virtual Budget Information Evening to provide an update on the impacts of provincial funding to the division, the proposed budget, and explanations related to decisions surrounding efficiencies, reductions, and additions to the 2023–24 budget.
Attendees were provided an opportunity to ask budget-related questions during the event. In the spirit of open, transparent, and honest communication with our public, below you will find answers to the questions that were posed. Please note, we have combined similar questions. If you submitted a question during the budget meeting and you do not locate a response below, please email email@example.com.
Thank you and remember the board of trustees and the administrative office staff are available to speak with you further.
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
What have we lost these past few budget cycles, as a result of provincial underfunding? What happens next year if you don’t get adequate funding?
With reduced provincial funding and increasing inflation, maintaining a status quo budget necessitates the finding of reductions and efficiencies in all areas of the organization, while centring our students’ learning experiences. The process of identifying efficiencies is an essential exercise we engage in to ensure the prudent use of taxpayers’ dollars. However, in RETSD, we are at the point where operations are running as lean as possible, and the board of trustees cannot raise additional funds. Furthermore, with limited funding, these deliberations rarely allow us to initiate new and innovative programs and programming. Without a fair, equitable, and adequate public education funding model, next year we will be forced to make deep cuts in the classroom.
What has the board done in the past four years to advocate for more funding from the province?
Over the past four years, the board of trustees has tirelessly advocated on behalf of the children, families, and community of RETSD. They have sent numerous letters to the minister of education and, after several attempts, were able to meet with the minister and members of Manitoba Education and Early Childhood Learning; they have liaised and met with local MLAs; and they have responded to every request for engagement, contribution, and feedback when asked by Manitoba Education.
Why was the funding model paused?
The decision to pause the funding model was made by the provincial government. This decision was disappointing to the RESTD board of trustees, who had provided significant feedback during consultation cycles by Manitoba Education. The board of trustees continues to advocate for a fair, equitable, and adequate provincial education funding model.
How can parents and the community help with pushing the government to get our division more funding?
The board of trustees encourages parents and community members to advocate for public education and a funding model that is fair, equitable, and adequate by contacting one’s local MLA. To locate your MLA please click here.
How was the stated surplus of $3.8 million dollars depleted?
The operating surplus was depleted over the past number of years to compensate for underfunding, specifically the impact of Bill 28, which resulted in a deficit 2022–23 budget of $3.6 million.
There has been increased residential and commercial development in RETSD. Doesn't more home construction and businesses mean higher revenue for RETSD to utilize and invest in our children and families?
Unfortunately, no. Though there may be more residential and commercial development in RETSD, we cannot benefit from it, as the amount we receive from the province from residential and commercial taxes has been frozen at 2020 levels. Since the board of trustees can no longer raise taxes, the growth that we are experiencing does not result in gains for the school division’s funding.
Does the division make money from programming, such as RETLife?
Programming, such as RETLife, has minimal revenue. It is meant to be an affordable service available to the broader RETSD community. This programming was impacted by the pandemic and is slowly getting back up and running.
With the increasing enrolment, how will student transportation be impacted? Do we have enough buses?
Currently, we have enough buses to transport all the students we are obligated to transport according to The Public Schools Act. We are also able to transport most of the students who are eligible, per RETSD policy. Exponential growth in the Transcona area due to new housing developments means fee-for-service busing will be impacted.
Please provide more details about the student information system? Shouldn’t the government fund this?
The Student Information System (SIS) is the data backbone of the school system. It links to a majority of the organization’s operations, including but not limited to storing student emergency contact information and teacher gradebooks, posting and sharing of report cards with parents, and maintaining a student's academic history and program plan. Historically, school divisions have been responsible for the cost of their SIS. Manitoba Education is in the process of exploring a provincial SIS, but the timelines are not yet finalized. Without a new provincial SIS, given that the current SIS in RETSD is at its end of life, the board of trustees has allocated funding should an interim SIS be required.
Can you please elaborate on the new technology required for hybrid board meetings. Is this technology necessary?
During the pandemic, school board meetings were held virtually. Members of the RETSD community who, in the past, were unable to attend due to child care, transportation, or scheduling concerns, now had a window into the governance of the school division. Currently, board meetings continue online; however, the gallery at the Administration Offices has reopened. We do not have the technology to operate true hybrid meetings, where people can fully participate in-person or virtually, depending on their preference. A priority of the board of trustees is to increase public engagement in the school division. Being able to offer hybrid meetings is necessary to meet this goal.
Will there be any programming cuts? And will class sizes be affected by these proposals?
Annually, RETSD reviews the programs and programming that the school division offers, regardless of budget cycles. This review ensures alignment to divisional priorities and provincial requirements and it makes certain that the programs and programming serve our students in equitable, impactful, and relevant ways, while being fiscally sustainable. Decisions about expansions and reductions are made because of these reviews. As we move ahead in our current budget deliberations, we reflect on the information we have gathered from these reviews to decide where programming changes are required. Details will be shared once the budget has been finalized. However, if reductions are necessary, this same process will be used to determine where those reductions will be made, while maintaining necessary programs and programming. RETSD has a commitment to a staffing model that keeps class sizes as low as possible, given the funding we receive. Based on this year’s funding, we can afford to add 14 more teachers. Senior administration will work through an equitable decision-making process to prioritize the places of enrolment pressures and where the additional teachers are required the most.
Can families fundraise for additional supports for their own school’s staff?
Families and school communities are invited to support their schools through fundraising events that are organized by the school staff and/or the parent advisory council. These funds are often used to offset the costs of schoolwide activities, resources such as library books, consumables such as specialized art supplies, or equipment for recess and sports. These one-time costs can enhance the experience of our students. Fundraising monies cannot be used for additional staff allocations.
How are the monies being allocated to address student mental health and other increasing student needs?
Additional funding for student services has been identified in the 2023–24 budget. This may include additions to personnel, such as resource teachers, counsellors, clinicians, and educational assistants, and additions to programming, such as specialized equipment and technology. The addition of resources at both the school and system levels will reflect RETSD’s commitment to inclusive education. Consideration is also based on community- and site-based characteristics. Currently, three of our senior years schools are partnering with community mental health service staff to provide on-site therapy for students; we plan to expand that service this year.
Please provide more details about hiring additional staff, such as teachers and EAs?
RETSD has a commitment to a staffing model that keeps class sizes as low as possible. Decisions about the allocation of additional teachers prioritizes schools that are experiencing enrolment pressures. Educational assistants (EAs) play a prominent role in inclusive educational service delivery, as their job is to support and supplement the work of classroom teachers. Annually, school staff participate in a class review process to identify strengths and support areas in their class. This data is used to inform decisions about classroom supports. School principals will continue to assign EAs to classroom teachers based on need.
What is the salary of trustees and heads of committees?
The annual indemnity is $25,569 for trustees, which translates into .0001% of the budget. There is no additional compensation for the heads of board committees.
How are consultants used in the division?
RETSD has curriculum and student services consultants who work with teachers and school administration to support the learning and well-being of our students. Consultants are teachers who have been assigned to these roles because of their expertise in their area of focus. Even though the number of consultants has been reduced through successive budgeting cycles, they are part of the team of people who have a direct impact on the success of our students. Consultants provide professional support to teachers, individually or in large and small groups. You can often find them in classrooms co-planning or co-teaching. Consultants provide alignment across the division. They support resource management, data collection, and implementation of the curriculum. Student services consultants ensure successful transition to school and to the community for students with additional needs and support appropriate educational programming across our schools.
Will some of the student services money be allocated to training for staff?
RETSD believes in supporting student learning through exemplary learning opportunities for all staff. In student services, training is provided to all new resource teachers and counsellors to assist them in obtaining the skills required to fulfil their new roles. Additional training is available for these student services personnel and classroom teachers in areas they identify as needs. Examples of training include augmentative/alternative communication, violent threat risk assessment, non-violent crisis intervention, executive functioning, and working with students who have autism.