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Nanaimo Ladysmith schools’ 2021-22 budget approved

·2 min read

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ board of trustees approved a $172 million budget for 2021-22.

Enrolment estimates put the student population next year at 14,360 full-time equivalent (FTE) students, 51 more than the current year, putting the preliminary operating grant to be received from the Ministry of Education at $138,362,646. Enrolment estimates show a slight reduction in students at the elementary level but a slight increase at secondary. The district expects a $9 million drop in special purpose funds received mostly due to the removal of one-time COVID-19 supports.

Most department’s budgets are in line with the current budget year, the district says. Counselling supports will stay at the current level, which the district says are above the ratio required by the ministry.

In the final month of budget deliberations, the debate among trustees intensified around cutting two community school coordinators, specifically school foods program planners, in order to shift funds to support the addition of education assistant hours.

A number of letters of support came in, including from Dr. Sandra Allison, medical health officer for the central Island, to maintain all five coordinator positions, which involve organizing in-school programs for food as well as physical and mental health.

Ultimately, staff announced the coordinator positions would not need to be reduced, and the education assistant increase could still be maintained, in light of the new BC Restart Plan announced on May 25. As a result, staff reassessed anticipated revenue from international students.

“The trend over the last month is we’re seeing a very heightened increase of international students coming to British Columbia,” Secretary-Treasurer Mark Walsh said at the May 26 board meeting. The district has budgeted for 180 FTE international students and expects roughly $1 million more in revenue compared to the 2020-21. “We’re very optimistic that we’ll meet and likely exceed 180.”

Given the hazy picture of what September could look like, the district says it has put aside funds to continue cleaning facilities at current levels in the upcoming school year, which it says would cost $1.5 million. If the Ministry of Education requires specific measures, the district expects the ministry would provide the funding.

During budget deliberations, trustees and staff discussed the current allocation to primary classroom teaching supplies and resources. Currently, the district allocates $20,000 per new classroom for infrastructure like desks and bookshelves and $1,000 for learning resources. Elementary schools receive $110 per student, per year, for supplies and services. Every year, funds provided to elementary schools are underspent, according to a staff report. The business committee voted to direct Superintendent Scott Saywell to review classroom resource access and report back to the board in September.

Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder

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