Teachers cuts possible to balance budget

The SD27 board agreed in-principle to cut the equivalent of 4.4 teaching positions in efforts to meet a projected shortfall

In a special public meeting on April 10, the School District 27 (SD27) board agreed in-principle to cut the equivalent of 4.4 full-time teaching positions in efforts to meet a projected shortfall of $800,000 in its 2012/13 budget.

The Ministry of Education funding for operating expenses is based on a per-student formula with some extra funding provided for rural and remote schools, weather, busing needs, and other criteria, secretary treasurer Bonnie Roller explained in her presentation during the public portion of the special meeting.

She added enrolment dropped in the district this year by almost double the original projections.

The district expected to lose about 70 students and lost closer to 140. The conservative estimate is the district will lose 225 students next year, Roller said.

Even with special funding protection provided by the ministry for rural districts, such as SD27, Roller noted that based on the projected enrolment numbers, the district expects to have 800,000 fewer dollars to work with next year.

She added the district can also expect to have funding protection gradually removed during the next few years until it is completely eliminated.

Roller noted the district can expect to lose $1.6 million in funding protection in 2012/13; $2.24 million in funding protection in 2013/14, and will likely see the end of funding protection in 2014/15.

Board chair Will Van Osch said the special meeting was required in order to meet contract obligations with teachers regarding negotiations on how and where the 4.4 full-time equivalent in teaching time will be reduced.

This year, SD27 has 308.5 full-time equivalent teachers. Next year, the school district expects to need only about 304.1 full-time equivalent teachers based on enrolment projects.

Mark Wintjes, instruction human resources director, said the enrolment projections are based on discussions with principals.

He noted teachers can be added in September if enrolment numbers prove to be higher than projected, but it is more difficult to remove teachers after the fact.

Trustee Patti Baker abstained from voting on the resolution, but said she supported keeping teachers in the classroom rather than adding more teacher-assistant time to support teachers in the management of split grade classrooms and students with special needs.

Before cutting teacher time, she added, the board should be looking at other areas of administration to make cuts.

“I think we are going in the wrong direction.”

Cariboo-Chilcotin Teachers’ Association president Joan Erb asked what impact the budget will have on maintaining the class size and composition requirements that were established with Bill 33 and are now in jeopardy with Victoria’s new Bill 22.

Assistant superintendent of schools Harj Manhas said the class size and composition guidelines set out in Bill 22 have been maintained in this district, with the exception of a couple of classes at the secondary level that have had one or two students more than the normal 30 students set for that level.

Gaeil Farrar is a writer for the Williams Lake Tribune.