School trustees closer to finishing budget

NANAIMO – Trustees remove two proposed cuts and deferr a motion to look into removing more at budget meeting.

Nanaimo school trustees removed a couple of proposed cuts and postponed a motion to look into removing more at Tuesday evening’s budget meeting.

The district is facing a $4.7-million shortfall in its 2013-14 budget and while district staff have already identified $2 million in savings from last year’s and this year’s budgets, trustees are still debating $2.7 million in proposed cuts to make up the difference.

Proposed cuts include: closing the District Resource Centre; moving English-stream students at Quarterway and Davis Road elementary schools to neighbouring schools; moving junior learning alternative students; eliminating specialist teacher positions and two caretaker positions; closing the print shop; and deferring spending on laptops for secondary teachers (part of the district’s technology plan).

At Tuesday’s meeting, trustees approved the majority of the proposed cuts but decided not to move English-stream students from Davis Road and to keep the print shop open for the next year to see if the service can operate on a cost recovery basis.

There is one more meeting scheduled for Monday (April 29) to discuss budget proposals and the board hopes to finalize it Wednesday (May 1).

Jamie Brennan, school board chairman, said there was a lot of opposition to the Davis Road change – the majority of presenters at last week’s public consultation meeting spoke against this proposal – and the draft facilities plan calls for moving all students out of the school and into a new elementary school in Ladysmith.

“Why make two moves when you may not have to?” he said.

As for keeping the print shop open, Brennan said the shop will have to charge $32 an hour as well as charging for materials to break even, so costs would go up for schools.

A motion to spend money saved by extending spring break to two weeks on teaching positions and the two caretaker positions was delayed because this move, which is not included in the budget, might not go forward.

While trustees approved the calendar change in March, the district is required to reach an agreement with the Nanaimo District Teachers’ Association by Monday or the board must to revert to a one-week spring break next year.

Brennan said the district needs the union’s approval because it means changing the hours of work – minutes are added onto each school day to make up for the extra week off.

NDTA president Justin Green said the union is seeking compensation for teachers-on-call and specialist teachers, as the former will work longer days for the same pay and lose opportunities to work and the latter lose a week’s pay.

“There’s a reason why the board saves money when they do an altered calendar,” he said. “It comes from workers. We need our members compensated appropriately.”

Green said if the union agrees to $50,000 or $100,000 in compensation, there would still be savings for the district.

“I would hate to see the board walk away from savings,” he said.