Province gives school district more money

Nanaimo school district will finish the year well in the black thanks to extra money from the province.

Nanaimo school district will finish the year well in the black thanks to extra money from the province.

The Education Ministry announced Friday it would distribute another $12.3 million as the final portion of the 2010-11 funding.

Secretary-treasurer Phil Turin said for Nanaimo, it means an extra $312,742.

“It’s always nice to get money,” he said. “We never know when these things are going to happen.”

This is the third round of hold-back money the province has distributed this year.

Each year, the province holds back money from districts as a contingency to pay for unforeseen enrolment increases or other emerging issues.

But because enrolment in every district was lower than expected, the province released hold-back funds in December, May and June.

Nanaimo got an extra $1.2 million in December, which helped ensure the district finished this school year in the black, then about $200,000 in May and the $313,000 in June.

Turin said this is an unusual year; sometimes districts do not receive any hold-back funds at all and so it was standard practice for many districts not to budget for it.

After the May hold-back was released, trustees debated reversing some of the cuts made to balance next year’s budget – the district was dealing with a $1.4-million shortfall – but decided to leave the issue until next fall.

Turin said the extra half million will hopefully carry over next fall as an unrestricted surplus, at which time he’ll make recommendations about what to do with the extra money. The district could need the money if there are more students than expected.

This year has been one of the most difficult budget years Turin has seen – a special education audit resulted in the province clawing back nearly $600,000 – about 30 education assistants – from the operating budget because some designated students did not meet ministry criteria.

There were also extra benefit costs, about 200 fewer students than expected and district staff froze $1 million from this year’s budget – every school had to take about $20 per student out of supplies budgets to make up this amount – to help balance next year’s budget and deal with the special education audit, he said.