The Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district could face a shortfall of more than $10 million during the next two years if the funding pressures facing local schools continue, according to secretary treasurer Phil Turin.
Turin recently told the school board the district can expect a shortfall of more than $4.3 million in 2014-15 and almost $5.9 million in 2015-16. He said that as of the end of September, enrolment in the district this year was at 13,211 full-time students, 56 fewer than last year.
Districts are primarily funded by the Ministry of Education according to the number of students enrolled, and Nanaimo-Ladysmith has seen its numbers drop from the approximately 16,000 students registered a decade ago, due to changing demographics and other factors.
The school district has become reliant on the infusion of millions of dollars each year through the province's funding protection program, a mechanism used to provide school districts facing major shortfalls with funds to make ends meet.
Funding protection has helped the district stave off major spending cutbacks in recent years, but Turin reminded the school board that there are no guarantees that the funding will be granted in future years.
Turin said added to the difficulties are unexpected expenditures that school districts are mandated by the province to pay. This includes the CUPE savings plan, in which the district will pay approximately $1 million each year for the new contract with school support workers.
He said the district's new long-range facilities plan will help the district save money, but it will be some time before the plan is fully implemented and those savings are realized.
"We have to continue to adjust our budgets and get to the point where our revenues equal our expenditures. But we don't have the luxury to raise taxes to help meet our financial needs like municipalities do and have to rely on the funding the government gives us."
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