Nanaimo school district facing $3-million shortfall next year

Nanaimo school district could be dealing with a shortfall of $3 million for the upcoming school year.

In an amended budget presented at the business committee meeting Wednesday, secretary-treasurer Phil Turin projected the school district would be short $5.6 million next year. An unrestricted surplus of $1.5 million carried over from 2012-13 and $1 million from a number of budget cutbacks in 2013-14 will see that amount decrease to the $3-million shortfall.

Budget cutbacks this year consist of $400,000 in staffing contingencies and $600,000 in services and supplies.

“In terms of services and supplies, that really runs through the entire supply budget ... budget officers were given an amount in their various areas to basically find some savings or reduce their procurement purchases for the remainder of this year,” Turin said, adding that elementary schools would not be affected.

“Approximately $12 per full-time equivalent [secondary school] student will be frozen, so that’s basically it. The maintenance budget, our learning services budgets, various budgets within those areas, those departments will be frozen to the tune of $600,000,” he said.

In terms of staffing contingencies, reductions would consist of $300,000 in teaching and $100,000 in educational assistants. Turin said staffing contingencies are always included in annual budgets to address unforeseen circumstances.

“When you build a budget, of course, we don’t know what the enrolment is going to look like and for [educational assistants] the composition of that enrolment, special needs students etc., so now that we’re halfway through the school year basically, things have settled down now and we pretty much have staffing in place for the balance of the year,” said Turin.

He said total expenditures for the 2013-14 amended budget total $134.8 million. There have been internal discussions about how to account for the $3-million shortfall but nothing has been made public yet.

“Various budget officers are starting to think about it and over the next few weeks, we’ll have to assemble together and start dealing with the budget for 2014-15,” Turin said.

School districts must prepare an amended budget once funding for enrolment as of Sept. 30 is finalized.

The final enrolment number for the current school year is 13,174 students, which is 89 fewer than originally projected.

The business committee is recommending that the school board approve the amended budget.

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