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Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board approves ‘difficult’ balanced budget of $416.3M

Trustees called it a “difficult” task as the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board approved a balanced budget of more than $416 million for the 2019-2020 school year.

Sitting as budget committee on Monday evening, trustees approved a balanced budget of $416,335,495 for the next school year. Total board enrolment for 2019-2020 is expected to be 32,679 students

READ MORE: Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board may cut 55 secondary school teaching jobs due to funding loss

In a release, trustees said an overall funding decline will result in reductions in key initiatives including mathematics instructional supports and cost pressures in Special Education and the Arts.

“This has been a difficult budget that necessitated some hard decisions that will be felt in our schools,” stated Sarah Bobka, chairperson of the budget committee.

“We have seen funding reductions across our budget overall that, combined with our intent to safeguard direct classroom and student resources as much as possible, led to tough choices.”

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Bobka said the board is projecting an increase of 550 elementary students next year.

“With all of the associated costs related to providing a first-class education for each of them, yet our funding is declining by almost $1M year over year,” she said. “As responsible managers of the public trust, we continue to explore all avenues to do more with less.”

Some of the changes include the elimination of 16 full-time equivalent math coaches — staff who are highly skilled in mathematics and worked in schools with classroom teachers to help students.

“Our intensive instructional model, Scope and Sequence, supporting students in learning math from Grades 1 to 8, has produced real, tangible results for our students in participating schools,” said Bobka.

“While we will be working to expand the program across the board, it will be very difficult with the loss of these roles and their support in schools.

“We understand that there is the possibility of some funding flowing provincially to support math instruction in the future, but we have to budget for the present.”

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The trustees also noted increasing cost pressures in Special Education and funding for the arts.

“Special education resources support not only some of our most vulnerable students, these resources benefit all our students,” said Bobka. “We will begin this year budgeted $2.6 M over our available funding in this area because the need is so great.

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“We also know studies in the Arts is a critical part of a well-rounded education, and funding in this area and other disciplines, which are life-changing in their ability to keep students engaged in school, remains challenging to secure,” she added.

READ MORE: East City students in Peterborough to be transported to Lakefield in 2019-20

The budget includes over $50 million to support special education program delivery in schools.

“We continue to prioritize funding in this area because we know these supports are used within schools in so many ways. Clearly, our need continues to extend beyond our available funding,” said Bobka.

While elementary student enrolment will increase, the trustees say secondary enrolment is expected to continue to stabilize year over year, with a projected decrease of 60 students in 2019-2020.

Board grant revenues are determined provincially based on elementary and secondary student enrolment.

“Our elementary enrolment continues to grow — by over 550 students — from year to year, which is a testament to the quality of programming within our schools,” says Bobka. “We believe our secondary enrolment will continue to hold steady for the coming years.”

The approved budget also includes a capital budget of more than $30 million. Projects expected for 2019-2020 include program enhancements for students (library and science room enhancements) and annual building improvements (lighting, window replacements, roof and boiler maintenance).

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