Nanaimo school trustees face $4M shortfall in budget

NANAIMO – Public budget meetings are scheduled for Tuesday (Feb. 17) and Feb. 26.

Nanaimo school district trustees will once again be dealing with a shortfall as they work their way toward finalizing the 2015-16 budget.

A $3.5-million shortfall forecasted last year is in line with current numbers, according to Graham Roberts, acting secretary-treasurer.

“That amount is in the range that we’re still looking at,” said Roberts. “We’re looking at between $3.5 to $4 million.”

An unrestricted surplus of $4.18 million from this year’s budget is being forecast, but whether that will be applied to the shortfall will be something that is part of budget discussions, said Roberts.

Steve Rae, school board chairman, said although budget discussions are only beginning, trustees are aware that the district is currently in the red and will work through the numbers to account for the shortfall. A balanced budget is mandated by the province, he said.

“Obviously, the last place I can tell you we’re going to look is the classroom … I can tell you that the flavour of this board, that is the last consideration, is the classroom, and hopefully we never get that far,” said Rae.

The new school board is also in the process of examining the 10-year facilities plan, passed by the previous board. The school district is holding a series of public forums to discuss the budget and the plan, with meetings set for Tuesday (Feb. 17) and Feb. 26 at Dover Bay and John Barsby secondary schools, respectively.

The school district’s budget must be approved by June 30 at the latest, as per the B.C. School Act, but the school district aims for the end of April for staffing purposes, said Roberts.