School budget cuts up for discussion again

Nanaimo trustees will reconsider a couple of cuts made to balance next year's budget at a special business committee meeting Wednesday.

Nanaimo trustees will reconsider a couple of cuts made to balance next year’s budget at a special business committee meeting Wednesday.

The district is finishing the year with more money than expected because the province distributed funding it holds back to pay for unexpected enrolment increases.

Carol McNamee, school board vice-chairwoman, asked trustees to reconsider cuts to secretarial and janitorial time now that there is a bit more money available.

Trustees approved a budget with $1.4 million in cuts on May 3.

A few weeks later, the province gave the district about $206,000 in holdback funds, but $76,000 will go toward paying school building insurance premiums, an expense the province downloaded to districts just before distributing holdback funds.

McNamee, who was surprised trustees agreed to review the cuts, said the suggestion was due to concerns the cuts could impact the health and safety of students and school staff. At some schools with no principal and a vice-principal who teaches part-time, a cut to clerical time could mean leaving the school office empty for part of the day, she said.

She’s also worried about cleaning that will not get done once the district increases the square footage for custodians.

“Schools are a hotbed of germs,” said McNamee. “Cleanliness is an important piece. I don’t know if we’re going to do it. At least we’ll discuss it.”

Sharon Welch, school board chairwoman, said reversing the two budget cuts is problematic because then other groups will come forward asking trustees to reconsider other cuts.

“We’re really opening a can of worms here,” she said.

Phil Turin, secretary-treasurer, said he would like the additional $130,000 to go into the district’s contingency fund to deal with any unexpected costs that crop up next year.

Each year, the district carries forward an unrestricted surplus to spend the following year and each year, unanticipated financial problems still crop up, he said.

“When reductions are done, you have to make reductions,” said Turin.

It is up to schools to ensure that someone is always at the front desk, he added.