Nanaimo school trustees look at reducing administration costs

NANAIMO – Nanaimo school district will examine cuts to the number of school trustees and administration.

Nanaimo school district board will examine cuts to the number of school trustees and administration as it tries to account for a $5.4-million deficit in its 2014-15 budget.

There has been backlash as administration positions were not among 44 full-time equivalent job cuts suggested in an initial budget proposal made last week. At a meeting Tuesday night, trustees heard from students, youth care workers, custodial staff, teacher librarians, union representatives and others who could be potentially affected.

A motion for public consultation passed that could ultimately see the school board reduced to seven trustees from nine in time for November’s civic election but feedback from the public would be key, according to trustee Kim Howland, who seconded the motion.

“Under the legislation to reduce your number of board [members], you have to have a public consultation because we’re public figures,” Howland said. “We’re just wanting to support that initiative that we look at, is that what the public wants, and is it a way of cost savings as well.”

She estimated the board reduction would provide about $30,000 in savings.

The board also approved a motion directing Superintendent David Hutchinson to bring budget reduction strategies from within administration to be considered by the board’s business committee.

“For me, we know it’s going to be devastating cuts and when I saw [the initial proposal], it was glaring to me that there was another opportunity of places to look at potentially making cuts and there was just nothing there, so there may be a very good reason for it, why there wasn’t anything there, or it may be an opportunity that was overlooked,” said trustee Nancy Curley, who proposed the motion.

“Either way, I think they’ve got a chance to bring some or give us sort of an understanding of why they’re not able to bring any cuts from there,” she said.

Nanaimo District Teachers’ Association president Mike Ball was among those critical about the lack of administration cuts and said the point was made even clearer based on presentations at the meeting. He said he thinks there will be some administrative cuts offered to the school board.

“I hope they look at them, I hope that they can save some direct services positions and do the admin cuts that are needed,” he said.

Ball asked how much longer the district could continue putting forward a balanced budget while cutting services. Curley echoed his sentiments, stating that trustees are in a difficult spot but it all comes down to provincial funding.

“The trustees in each of the school districts are given the job of still trying to provide a proper education to our youth but are in an absolutely no-win situation of having to make these dramatic cuts and I think sometimes after 10 years of the kinds of cuts that we’ve seen, we’re passed the bone now, we’re into the marrow,” Curley said.

The district is hoping to have a balanced budget in time for a meeting on April 30, although June 30 is the last day for budget passage.