The New Westminster school district is in the midst of a budget crunch this year, with the province requiring it spend $1 million on the new Richard McBride Elementary School project.
That and other costs, including New Westminster Secondary School expenses and supporting education initiatives, mean the district’s surplus has been depleted, according to school board chair Anita Ansari.
“This year, we’re running out of surplus,” she said.
While the board was aware the school district would be expected to pay for part of the McBride seismic project, they didn’t know what amount would be expected, according to Ansari.
“When we got our tenders together, approved by the treasury board, we were told this is the amount of money they’re putting in and this is the expectation of the amount of money we’re putting in,” she said. “We pulled from surplus because we don’t really have that kind of money lying around anywhere else.”
The entire budget for the project is currently $35 million, according to the Ministry of Education.
“They have a process at the different levels and they try to see what school districts can reasonably put in,” Ansari said. “We checked around with our peers in other districts, and this seems to be very much in line with the size of capital projects being fielded today.”
The $1 million is coming from the budget surplus, as detailed in the amended budget submitted to the operations committee by secretary-treasurer Bettina Ketcham.
The cost was over and above the $840,936 of surplus spending set aside for operating costs in the amended budget. The district expects to have a surplus of more than $3 million at the end of the year; however, the cost of furniture and equipment for the new high school is not included in this year’s amended budget, so it may be less.
The replacement of Richard McBride Elementary is set to add 65 additional student seats, with a total capacity of 505. The school is slated to open in 2022.