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School board unanimously passes 2015/16 budget

The New Westminster school board unanimously passed the 2015/16 budget at their meeting Tuesday night.
Michael Ewen, Jonina Campbell
Michael Ewen and Jonina Campbell celebrate their victory after being re-elected to school board.

The New Westminster school board unanimously passed the 2015/16 budget at their meeting Tuesday night.

The $67-million financial plan outlines a balanced budget for the next three years, contains zero job cuts and includes a $500,000 emergency surplus for unforeseen expenses.

Board chair Jonina Campbell, who bought a new pair of shoes specifically for the occasion, was all smiles when the budget passed third reading.

"The board is very proud of getting to a point of having financial stability and moving our district forward, and getting back to those things that are real priorities for supporting our students and our classrooms," she told the Record afterwards.

In attendance was Grant Osborne, president of the New Westminster Teachers' Union, who said it was a "fantastic night."

"We've had years where these nights have been filled with questions, tears, worry and anxiety. Now we're in a position where we have a modest surplus. To turn it around in a year, and be in a situation now where we have no layoffs, we have greater job security and we have an opportunity to invest in class-size and composition, in technology, it's an exciting time," he added.

To deal with class-size and composition issues, $600,000 has been put aside to hire six to seven more teachers. Another quarter-million will go into school supplies. The board will also inject an additional $750,000 into IT infrastructure.

Other items include hiring two additional trades people to help with building maintenance and spending $61,200 on emergency preparedness supplies. 

The board also expects to retire the district's $4.86-million debt by 2018 with a three-year repayment plan.

The task at hand now, according to both Campbell and Osborne, is to make sure that $600,000 is spent wisely. 

"It's about taking the information we have, the data, and making sure that's driving decisions; making sure that limited amount of money is having the greatest impact for the greatest number of kids," he said. 

To avoid a shortfall during the 2013/14 school year, the equivalent of 61 positions were eliminated. Twenty-nine more were cut the following year, as well as the academic night school and part of the continuing education program.

"It's a completely different district than a year ago," Osborne said.


CORRECTION: In a previous online article, the Record reported the 2015/16 budget was $62 million. It is actually $67 million.