Funding increase benefits Nanaimo school district

Unexpected boost will significantly reduce deficit projection

An unexpected increase in provincial education funding will significantly reduce Nanaimo school district’s projected $5.7-million shortfall.

The Education Ministry announced its estimated operating grants for the 2011-12 school year Friday, doling out $4.72 billion in operating funding – an increase of $58 million from this year.

Nanaimo will receive $117.7 million – virtually the same as this year’s funding – despite ministry predictions the district will lose 185 students.

Phil Turin, Nanaimo school district’s secretary-treasurer, said the district is receiving about $5 million more than he predicted when he recently forecast a deficit of $5.7 million.

There are two reasons for the increase, he said.

School districts are funded on a per-student basis and the province raised the grant by $44 per student. The district also qualifies for funding protection this year due to declining enrolment, which means it will not receive less funding next year than it did this year.

District officials still need to analyze the numbers to determine how much the additional money will reduce the shortfall, said Turin, but he estimates it will be pared to somewhere around $2.5 million.

The district expects to lose about $600,000 out of next year’s budget due to fewer special education students than it received funding for this year, said Turin.

And while the funding protection is a good thing because it means more money for the district, it also means that if the district gets more students in the fall than budgeted for, the province will not provide any additional money, he added.

That means staff must set aside some contingency funds to hire additional staff in case enrolment is higher than expected.

“So there’s good news and cautionary news,” said Turin. “Now we have to work that into the budget. More will come after we start having our deliberations at the table.”

District staff expect to present trustees with a draft budget on April 6.

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