Sask. budget: $3.75B education budget to be partially funded by raising property taxes

·3 min read
The 2021-22 budget prioritizes keeping schools open as the province continues to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, while also relying on school construction projects to stimulate the economy.   (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)
The 2021-22 budget prioritizes keeping schools open as the province continues to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, while also relying on school construction projects to stimulate the economy. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)

The Saskatchewan government's 2021-22 budget includes $3.75 billion for education that will be partially financed through tax increases on residents, businesses and resources.

Finance Minister Donna Harpauer tabled the budget Tuesday. It includes an increase of $391.3 million — or 11.6 per cent — for education from last year's budget. The majority of the increase is due to pensions, the province said.

The budget prioritizes keeping schools open as the province continues to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, while also relying on school construction projects to stimulate the economy.

"We are pleased to once again be increasing education funding to historic levels, allowing us to protect our classrooms, build school infrastructure and grow child care capacity for Saskatchewan," Education Minister Dustin Duncan said in a news release.

"We remain committed to protecting our school communities as they look to address student needs, as we move toward the 2021-22 school year."

The Saskatchewan government has earmarked over $20 million for the 2021-22 school year so divisions can acquire more staff, IT equipment, PPE and cleaning supplies.
The Saskatchewan government has earmarked over $20 million for the 2021-22 school year so divisions can acquire more staff, IT equipment, PPE and cleaning supplies.(Carlos Osorio/The Canadian Press)

Funding includes $100.9 million to build 16 schools and renovate five existing schools across the province, with another $10 million reserved for relocatable classrooms.

The budget also includes $190 million for education capital, but cuts $8 million for capital maintenance on Kindergarten to Grade 12 schools and advanced education.

Keeping classrooms open

Saskatchewan's 27 school divisions will see a $19.2 million increase in operating funding over last year, including a two per cent increase for staff as part of the teachers' collective bargaining agreement.

Pandemic supports for keeping classrooms open were previously announced. They include $20.7 million for the 2021-22 school year so divisions can acquire more staff, IT equipment, PPE and cleaning supplies.

Post-secondary schools will receive a combined $60 million over the next two years to manage costs associated with the pandemic.

Increase in property taxes

Harpauer's 2021-22 budget proposes an increase to the education property tax (EPT) to increase provincial revenue available for pre-K to Grade 12 education.

The rates have remained unchanged since 2017.

The budget proposes a .85 total increase in the EPT mill rate, resulting in a slight increase for residential, commercial/industrial and resource properties, and a decline in the rate on agricultural land.

The budget shows the government is projecting to collect $12 million in revenue from the increase. The average homeowner will pay an additional $18 per year.

Minister of Finance Donna Harpauer held a news conference Tuesday prior to the tabling of her 2021-22 budget.
Minister of Finance Donna Harpauer held a news conference Tuesday prior to the tabling of her 2021-22 budget.(Michael Bell/The Canadian Press)

Post-secondary education

Post-secondary schools will get $28.4 million more than last year's budget to help with construction projects and student aid.

This includes an increase in the Saskatchewan Advantage Scholarship, providing eligible students with $250 more per year.

The government also plans to launch a student loan forgiveness program for veterinarians and veterinarian technologists who work in rural and remote communities.

Opposition calls budget 'uninspiring, ordinary'

NDP leader Ryan Meili said the 2021-22 budget does not go far enough in addressing the pandemic.

On Tuesday, NDP Leader Ryan Meili called the 2021-22 budget “uninspiring, ordinary" during a press conference at the Saskatchewan legislature.
On Tuesday, NDP Leader Ryan Meili called the 2021-22 budget “uninspiring, ordinary" during a press conference at the Saskatchewan legislature. (CBC)

He called it an "uninspiring, ordinary budget that doesn't fit the challenges of today" with "nothing serious" being allocated to education.

"This will amount to cuts and tough decisions for school boards," Meili said.

"[School boards] are dealing with overcrowded, complex classrooms for quite some time. Instead of helping to address that this government has said they're not going to keep up with the student needs, and that's a real failure when trying to build a better future for this province."

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