The Portage la Prairie School Division’s public budget meeting and open house went off without a hitch last week while educating the public about how their tax dollars are spent.
“It’s a real tribute to how we have been able to, through the guidance of our trustees, invest in kids and do it in a responsible way to our ratepayers,” says PLPSD Superintendent, Todd Cuddington. “We’ve clawed back the mill rate this year so people are going to see a very modest reduction in the taxes they’ll be paying. We’ve also been able to fulfill some of the directives from the province and we’re trying to do more with less.”
The budget is balanced this year but did see a few issues come up. The division needs four school buses, but only three were budgeted for, so Cuddington notes a fourth bus may have to be funded via a reserve fund. The division also had to do away with the all-day kindergarten pilot project because the province wasn’t in a position where they were ready to support it financially.
A lot of funding is going into operational projects this year as the division is one of the leading in the province for accessibility.
“These are public buildings and we want them to be fully accessible to students and staff and the public,” says Cuddington. “We’re going to continue down that route of accessibility and removing barriers. Luckily we got a grant from the feds that will go toward accessibility which is good because we didn’t get that money from the province.”
The board of trustees created an open house out of the public budget meeting where teachers and students were encouraged to showcase some of the projects they are working on throughout the school year.
“We’ve been presenting the budget to an empty room, essentially, for the past number of years and we thought why not draw people out to see how the money is put into practice,” adds Cuddington. “The feedback has been very positive from all of our stakeholders. It was nice to hear from teachers as they were really excited to let the public see some of the things we offer.”