The Winnipeg School Division and the City of Winnipeg are playing the blame game.
On Tuesday, WSD board chair Mark Wasyliw said the city put them in a bind by throwing some last minute property tax assessments on them.
But now the city is saying they warned the WSD about this months ago.
“Myself and my deputy met with the finance people with the school division back in November,” explains city tax assessor Mel Chambers. “And every month since November 2015, we have been providing school divisions with those assessment updates.”
Wasyliw said that the property tax assessments meant a $5.5-million shortfall for the WSD, which they can make up by either raising taxes 6.4 per cent or cutting up to 60 teaching positions.
“This is no way to pay for an education system,” Wasyliw exclaimed. “We have to have a serious discussion in Manitoba of finding a different way, without property taxes, to pay for our education system. This just can’t keep happening.”
But the city doesn’t think the blame should be passed on to them, again reminding the WSD that they were told about this in November.
“Categorically, I can say yes we did,” Chambers says. “That’s part of our normal process. We provide them assessment updates within their school division boundaries so that they can start their budget cycle in process.”
Having said that, board finance chair Chris Broughton says no final numbers were given to them until very recently, and that the timing of it and the shortfall are both unprecedented.
“There’s no way that we would have anticipated this change. That’s unfortunate that’s how they feel,” Broughton explains. “We don’t benefit from a blame game. What we need to have a conversation about is how do we move forward when it comes to funding education in this province?”
Regardless of who said what and when, the school division finds themselves with a Monday deadline to get their budget to the city, and either raise taxes or cut teaching positions.