Calm waters ahead for New West school district

The New Westminster school district doesn’t plan to make any cuts in the upcoming year despite an operating shortfall of about $244,000.

The district made its first draft budget presentation Tuesday night.

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The district faces an operating deficit in next year’s estimated $70.5 million budget. Secretary-treasurer Kevin Lorenz, however, was quick to point out the shortfall should be covered a $413,739 surplus expected by the end of this year.

Superintendent Pat Duncan is confident the district has the money it needs for next year.

“We’re investing the moneys we presently have into helping teachers as they adapt and change their teaching practices. So, would more money be helpful? Always. … Is money holding us back from doing the things we need to do? I don’t think so,” Duncan said.

In all, the district has squirreled away about $1.2 million over the past two years. This has left the once financially troubled district with room to breathe.

Despite an increase by the provincial government to per-pupil funding, the district expects a drop in its funding because of a 137-student decline in enrolment.

When the new middle school opens in the fall, the district intends to have teachers and staff move with students to the new school. This will mean decreases in the student populations at some West End elementary schools and at the high school. (Starting in the fall, Grade 8 students from the West End will attend École Fraser River Middle School instead of New Westminster Secondary School. The high school will eventually serve only grades 10 to 12.)

The district has hired one new principal to fill the space at the new middle school and will be hiring three new professional staff members, including a buyer, a communications officer and the equivalent of one full-time teaching librarian.

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