Growth in enrollment, in part, necessitated the 4.6 per cent increase. Pictured: Greater Fort Erie Secondary School (GFESS). Photo credit: Twitter/Steve Rambajan
For the fourth consecutive year, the District School Board of Niagara (DSBN) has increased its annual budget by well over $20 million from the year prior.
On Tuesday, July 12, the school board announced trustees approved a budget totalling $546.6 million for the 2022/23 academic year – $24 million higher than the 2021/22 school year.
According to a press release from the DSBN, the 4.6 per cent budget increase, allocated in the Grants for Student Needs (GSN), “is due in part to the steadily increasing enrolment happening at DSBN schools.”
The upcoming academic year will see enrollment at DSBN schools increase by 2.6 per cent – representing over 1,000 new students – bringing the total number of pupils enrolled at the DSBN’s 96 elementary and secondary schools above the 40,000 mark.
“Balancing the needs of the future while recognizing that we are still gradually moving out of the pandemic was key in developing this budget,” said finance committee chair and trustee for Niagara Falls Kevin Maves. “This is why this budget focuses on proper staffing, expanding academic programming and supports, as well as strategies to support individual learning needs of DSBN students.”
To accommodate anticipated growth, the school board hired over 130 new staff, including 70 teachers (the same number as last year), 23 special education instructors, and several educational assistants and early childhood educators.
As highlighted by the board, the budget allocates $68 million toward supporting special education, $5.6 toward COVID recovery, and makes further investments in mental health and wellbeing supports and improvements to Indigenous education.
An additional $528,000 was also set aside for one-to-one tutoring at the elementary school level, and an additional $168,000 to help enhance summer learning.
“Our goal is always to do what is best for students. And with this budget, we are doing just that by prioritizing key programs and supports, such as mental health and well-being, Indigenous education, and, with rising enrolment, adding a significant number of staff to ensure that students are supported with their learning and growth, and are set up to succeed,” said Director of Education Warren Hoshizaki.
“We are looking towards next year optimistically, and we are already prepared to welcome students, families, and staff back in September for what promises to be an excellent school year ahead.”
The board also earmarked $62.6 million in accumulated surplus reserves to invest in future needs, such as equipment and capital priorities, or to respond to any yet-to-be determined priorities that may arise moving forward.
The DSBN is home to 78 elementary schools and 18 secondary schools, with enrollments in excess of 27,000 and 12,000 students at each level, respectively. The governing board consists of 11 municipally elected trustees from across Niagara and three student representatives.
At the end of June, Niagara Catholic – the DSBN’s coterminous Catholic board – passed a $279 million budget for the 2022/23 school year, an $11 million increase from the year prior.