Minister to hold talks over Drumlish National School funding shortfall

Work on a two-classroom extension at Drumlish NS has already begun amid claims of an 86,448.40 euro shortfall in funding. Photo: Michelle Ghee. www.gphotos.ie
Board of management officials at a north Longford national school are to hold talks with Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan this week over meeting a near €90,000 shortfall to complete a two classroom extension.

Board of management officials at a north Longford national school are to hold talks with Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan this week over meeting a near €90,000 shortfall to complete a two classroom extension.

It comes after it emerged last week the school was facing into a five figure deficit in its attempts to complete the revamp.

Fine Gael Councillor and board of management member, Paraic Brady said a request for additional funding was now being considered by the Department in a bid to end the stand off.

“We will be meeting the minister on Wednesday or Thursday of this week,” he said, as he expressed his quiet optimism in succeeding with the board’s submission.

“I’d be very confident we will get our funding because we do have a case to put to the minister. And what I also want to make clear is that the school (building) is going ahead. It’s not slowing down or stopping.”

Cllr Brady’s remarks follow a week of claims and counter claims over the finer details of the project.

When contacted by the Leader this week, a Department spokesperson insisted the Department was not aware of any funding difficulties at the school.

“The Department has no record of receiving any request for additional funding from St. Mary’s National School, Drumlish, Co Longford in excess of funding already approved,” said the spokesperson.

That appeared initially, at least, to fly in the face of revelations made last week after board of management representatives held a meeting with local politicians.

There, it was suggested that the Department’s overall allocation of just over €300,000 was not sufficient to meet current building costs.

That, coupled with the fact VAT costs encounted for almost €50,000 of the grant, meant the school was now staring into an €86,448.40 shortfall.

In a statement to this newspaper, St Mary’s NS board of management said the only reason an extension was sought after in the first instance was to meet increased enrolment demands.

From 145 pupils on its books in 2007, the board stated there were now 209 pupils enrolled, making the need for a second extension in less than five years glaringly obvious.

However, increased costs linked to VAT and other areas meant the Department’s allocation of €306,900 was now “wholly insufficent”, claimed the board.

“In essence, before a foundation line was marked, the Department allocation does not adequately fund the building process, despite clear demands in the area for the extension and a clear obligation on the school to provide education to all children enrolled in the area,” read the statement.

It also stressed that continuous efforts made with appointed architects to make savings where possible, had been fully exhausted.

Without openly stating its next move, the board hinted at possibly having to look at various fundraising streams if Department chiefs don’t step in.

“In an election year and post recessionary times we feel that this is unacceptable,” the statement continued.

“The school community and the wider parish of Drumlish are constantly digging deep to lessen the gap between adequate State funding and the need to provide adequate services in our area.”