10/18/2012 03:47 EDT | Updated 12/18/2012 05:12 EST

N.B. education minister won't guarantee schools will get full funding

FREDERICTON - New Brunswick's education minister says there's no guarantee schools across the province will be getting all the funding they were expecting this year.

Jody Carr says his department is still in the process of determining budgets for the schools this year, but has notified principals they will be getting 70 to 75 per cent of their funding now, with another instalment later.

However, Carr said he can't say how large that second instalment will be.

"There's been no decision made on the 30 per cent or the 25 per cent," Carr said Thursday.

"That will be done in consultation with districts as we continue in the next two to three weeks building our budget so that we can meet the needs of students and at the same time respond to the budget pressures that we have."

Carr said schools would normally have their budgets by the start of the school year, but this year saw the reduction of the number of school districts from 14 to seven and an exercise by his department to examine the budget process and spending.

He said the $1 billion department budget isn't being cut, but he's looking for better ways to spend the money in the face of added pressures.

"There are more educational assistants that are hired this year, and there's also minor repair budgets that have increased," Carr said.

"We are trying to take from within our budget to meet those budget pressures and at the same time make the decisions that have the best value for students."

The president of the New Brunswick Teachers Association said the delays are causing uncertainty and cutting funding will hurt educational services.

"Principals are going to have to plan using the 70 per cent that they have been told they are going to get and then if they get more money then it is going to be a bonus, but you can't plan on a what if," Heather Smith said in an interview.

She said principals should have been notified earlier, not with an email six weeks into the school year.

Smith said front line school operational budgets is not the place to look for budget cuts.

"It is going to affect educational services," she said.

Liberal Opposition Leader Victor Boudreau said the public and members of the legislature put their trust in Carr to take savings found from reducing the number of school districts and invest more in the classrooms.

"To be six weeks into the school year and all of a sudden tell the schools that you can only count on 70 per cent of your budget, with no guarantees you are ever going to see the other 30 per cent is a massive cut," Boudreau said.

"It is more than significant."