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School district CEO asks for time

John Gaiptman has been taking the ferry to Victoria for more than just going home to see his wife.

Gaiptman became superintendent and CEO of the New Westminster school district a month ago. He held the same job with the Greater Victoria district before retiring. The main purpose of the ferry trips are to visit his spouse. He’s also been talking to the Ministry of Education. The subject: straightening out New West’s finances.

The district not only needs to produce a balanced budget for 2014-15. It also has an accumulated deficit of $5M to deal with. The province let New West off the hook for 2013-14—it didn’t make the district start repaying the deficit. But it was to begin doing so in 2014-15.

“I have had numerous meetings with the ministry, including with Rod Wood our deputy minister, to try to get a hold on the financial aspects of this district. A plan has to be put into action, but what I’m asking for is some time from the ministry to do that,” said Gaiptman. “Give us some time to have a plan that will lead towards solvency in the next few years. There are things I am asking of the ministry. They have been beyond terrific in giving me the time to understand the issues and work with me as much as possible.”

Last week he announced a budget process timeline. He’ll introduce his proposed numbers at an April 1 board of education meeting.

In January, the New Westminster secondary parent advisory council called on the district to state what programs would be impacted by budget cuts by mid-February.

That would have given parents enough time to consider other options, said PAC chair Stephen Bruyneel.

But the school district only learned what its funding would be from the ministry last week.

“Trust me, it has never been my way to put people in angst for no reason. Those numbers I share on April 1 have to be real,” said Gaiptman.

Having to deal with an annual lease of more than $700,000 for board offices is something new to him. That expense will come off the books when the district moves into its own offices in August 2015.

“Surprised or aghast [at the lease] is just not helpful,” said Gaiptman. “What is helpful is to find solutions to problems. This has been a humbling experience for me. There are things here I don’t have the answers to, and I’ve been reaching out to people in the Ministry of Education to help me do the best job that I can in the district.”

Gaiptman will hold public meetings to discuss the budget at the NWSS library on April 9 and 16.

He will present any adjustments as a result of the feedback to the board April 22 with the final vote April 29.

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