School trustees pass budget with no cuts

A reprieve from cuts to programs and services in Nanaimo school district is in the works for students, staff and parents.

A reprieve from cuts to programs and services in Nanaimo school district is in the works for students, staff and parents.

Trustees approved the $134.5-million 2012-13 budget at a special board meeting Wednesday.

The budget will be balanced with $1.6 million in surplus money carried forward from the current school year, giving the district a temporary break from slashing programs and services to bring the budget into the black, as trustees have done in recent years.

“It took about six minutes and we passed it,” said Jamie Brennan, school board chairman. “Trustees were pleased we were able to pass a balanced budget without having to resort to any cuts. But we were reminded that we do have a structural deficit.”

Phil Turin, secretary-treasurer, said the district was in an unusual position this year of receiving a funding protection grant, which ensured the district received the same amount in its operating budget as the previous year despite declining enrolment, and managing those funds well so that the year was finished with a larger-than-usual surplus.

Turin said because the 2012-13 budget includes $4 million in funding protection and $1.6 million in surplus funds carried over from this year, the district has a structural deficit of $5.6 million.

“We have a structural deficit and enrolment is going down and funding protection is going down,” he said. “We’ll have a much more difficult budget process next year.”

Funding protection will continue to drop 1.5 per cent in coming years, said Turin, and enrolment is expected to decline by 46 students next year, 134 students in 2013-14 and 163 students in 2014-15 for a total of 333 students over the next three years.

Derek DeGear, president of the Nanaimo District Teachers’ Association, said Nanaimo has some of the largest class sizes in the province and the “no cuts” statement is misleading in the sense that the district has cut so much in recent years, there is nothing left to cut.

He also questions why the number of senior managers is increasing at a time when teachers feel classroom conditions have eroded – while mainly a rollover from last year, the budget adds a new position of deputy superintendent to support the establishment of a learning services department.

Trustees decided not to extend spring break by four days, a move that would have saved an estimated $366,000, suggested by staff as a way to pay for special initiatives such as updating technology in schools.

Brennan said the district hopes to use any remaining surplus from this year’s budget to do some technology upgrades.

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