Nanaimo trustees finalize budget cuts

NANAIMO – School district budget narrowly passes during special board meeting Monday.

The Nanaimo school district board narrowly passed a $132.6-million budget for the 2014-15 school year at a special meeting Monday.

Passing by a vote of 5-4, the balanced budget will not include the elimination of teacher librarians, something that had been proposed earlier given a projected shortfall of $5.4 million.

The elimination of teacher librarians, something suggested in an early budget proposal, will not take place but there will be the reduction of six full-time equivalent teachers as part of the distance learning model.

One full-time equivalent teaching position related to the elementary Outreach, Wellness and Learning (OWL) program was also eliminated.

A transition counsellor and a Career Technical Centre coordinator position from Nanaimo District Secondary School were eliminated with the workload being added to the school’s vice-principals.

An executive assistant position in the human resources department will also be cut.

An unrestricted operating surplus of $1.5 million and a $1-million reduction from this year’s budget were used to balance the budget for next year.

Trustees Dot Neary, Sharon Welch, Kim Howland, Bill Robinson and Donna Allen voted in favour while Jamie Brennan, Nancy Curley, Bill Bard and TerryLynn Saunders voted against.

About $5.5 million in reductions were approved, $175,617 more than necessary, and the extra money will be kept as a contingency, available for use at the classroom level, according to Donna Reimer, school district spokeswoman.

Bard voted against the budget, as he said trustees needed to go over it again to see if there were opportunities to eliminate senior management positions.

“When you have job losses and you have to cut services and supplies, I’m not happy with it,” Bard said. “I think we did the best that we could. The province continues to critically underfund us and they ask us to pay more for hydro and MSP premiums but they don’t give us enough to cover those costs.”