School district officials from across the province are coming to a consensus that they have nothing left to cut despite the looming government demand for further financial restraint next year.
School districts were all ordered to cut two per cent from their spending this year. And Finance Minister Blaine Higgs has warned that all departments across the government are expected to trim more from their budgets in upcoming years.
With the exception of the District 1 Education Council, which has resisted the cuts, school districts have all finalized their plans on how to deal with their budget reductions.
Several districts told CBC News that they've avoided cuts to the classroom but that may not be possible next year if more cuts are ordered.
Gerard Robichaud, the chairman of the District 9 Education Council, said his district in the Acadian peninsula is laying off office staff, trimming maintenance budgets and eliminating mentor positions and support programs.
'If we were sitting here exactly as we are today and someone said, find another two per cent, I think that would be very difficult to do without having some impact on the classroom.' — Chris Toole, District 8 official
"It definitely has an effect on the classroom, because we had some special programs, like literacy, and other special programs we had to eliminate this year because we couldn't finance them," Robichaud said.
He said District 9 was able to avoid eliminating teacher positions this year.
But even the cuts the district made to building maintenance will affect students.
"We're going to make sure that all safety stuff are done, but other stuff will have to wait," Robichaud said.
"And down the road, it's definitely going to filter down to the classroom, whether we like it or not. It's going to happen."
More cuts loom
Five of the province's 14 school districts told CBC News that after this year's cuts, finding another two per cent next year will be next to impossible.
Education Minister Jody Carr had originally instructed school district officials to make sure the cuts did not impact classroom education.
The education minister later softened that stance by asking that the cuts have a minimal impact on the learning environment for students.
Chris Toole, the director of finance for School District 8, said finding another two per cent from the Saint John-area school district's budget would be difficult without hurting classroom learning.
"If we were sitting here exactly as we are today and someone said, find another two per cent, I think that would be very difficult to do without having some impact on the classroom," Toole said.
The provincial government has suggested it may merge districts or force them to share services such as human resources to save more money next year.
But potential cuts to teaching positions would run counter to the commitment made by Premier David Alward during last fall's election campaign.
Alward held a press conference on Sept. 7, 2010, to outline his party's education platform.
It was the second week of the election campaign and while his party had been talking about the importance of fiscal restraint in other areas of government, he said education would be different.
"We have made a very direct commitment that we are going to keep the number of teachers that we have we are going to focus on investments in the classroom and we will not reduce the number of teachers like this government has," he said at the election news conference.