Support staff cut in Nanaimo school district budget

NANAIMO – Three teacher positions cut due to declining enrolment.

Cuts to education support workers and preliminary planning for a school gym are among items in the Nanaimo school district’s budget for 2015-16.

The school board approved a budget totalling $133.8 million on Wednesday, with trustees Jamie Brennan, Noah Routley and Tania Brzovic voting against.

Reductions to custodial and maintenance workers were part of initial budget discussions, but the school district found money to save eight positions, including $200,000 that had been earmarked for a Nanaimo District Secondary School project.

Approximately three teacher positions were cut due to declining enrolment and attrition.

Seven custodial positions will be cut, along with approximately five maintenance and two grounds workers. The school district is projecting a surplus of $1.6 million for next year, although about $700,000 is already spoken for. It is something that didn’t sit well with Rob Zver, president of CUPE Local 606, the support workers’ union.

“They didn’t need to make the necessary cuts this year to taking away services that are provided for the cleanliness and the safety of the students,” said Zver. “They also passed the two-week spring break, which affects only CUPE and only a handful of [teachers].”

During budget consultations, the parent advisory council for École Hammond Bay expressed concerns about capacity of the school’s gym.

The trustees allocated $25,000 for project planning, according to the school district.

“The district will be working with the school, which already had been doing some work and that’s getting the ball rolling to make sure that in the near future, they do get the new gym that they’re hoping for.

“It could very well be a review or in some sort of report because that’s the first step in making sure that we have what we need, so that we can get more money from the [Ministry of Education],” said Dale Burgos, school district spokesman.

The school district was hit with a surprise expense of $434,000 for high-speed Internet upgrades from the province. As a result, a 10-per cent reduction on all non-instructional services and supplies will occur.