The Burnaby school board will cut the equivalent of nearly 18 jobs to balance its budget next year.
It’s better than the nearly 30 jobs the board had contemplated during its budgeting process, but that was no source of joy for trustees or school district employee groups at a public meeting Tuesday where the 2015/16 budget was unanimously approved.
“This has got to be one of the most difficult budgets I’ve ever done,” board chair Ron Burton told the NOW, “and that includes the Vander Zalm years and all the cuts then.”
To maintain current service levels next year, the district faced a shortfall of more than $2.2 million – even after applying nearly $4.4 million in surpluses expected to accumulate by the end of this year, according to secretary-treasurer Greg Frank.
Just under $1.5 million of that gap will be covered by staffing cuts.
Totalling 17.8 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions, the cuts are sprinkled throughout the district and every employee group.
Elementary teacher-librarians, however, were spared. The board had considered cutting the equivalent of nearly three elementary teacher-librarians, but the final budget includes only a 0.6 FTE reduction in secondary teacher-librarian time and the loss of one high school library assistant.
Each high school will still be left with one full-time teacher-librarian, according to Frank’s budget presentation.
All high schools will also continue to have lab assistants, despite the loss of one FTE lab assistant position.
Cuts at the secondary level, which also include the loss of two clerical positions, 1.5 FTE of daily physical activity/career programs/grad transition staff, two English language teachers and 1.5 FTE of lunch supervisors, were possible because of decreased high school enrolment in the district, according to Frank.
Cost reductions are necessary, he said, because increases in provincial funding next year aren’t sufficient to cover projected cost increases, like inflation and teachers moving up on the pay grid.
The district has also been ordered to find nearly $1.2 million in administrative savings in 2015/16, as part of the provincial government’s plan to save $54 million on district administrative costs across BC over the next two years.
“We got through it,” said Burton of the budget passed Tuesday, “but it’s next year’s budget that we really have to work on trying to get the government to realize they’ve made enough cuts.”
The school district’s partner groups, meanwhile, agreed the board had made the best of a bad business with the budget.
“We try and slice it and dice it anyway possible, and it’s ugly,” said CUPE vice-president Nicole Montgomery. “I mean, it’s the government we need to be chasing, not the people sitting behind those tables.”
Burnaby Teachers’ Association president Rae Figursky was relieved to see class size and composition hadn’t been compromised in the budget.
“There weren’t really proposed cuts to that in that budget to begin with, but that’s always what we remind them of,” she said. “This was better than the draft (budget) was. We knew it was going to be, but it’s still not perfect.”
To see all the school district’s budget documents, visit www.sd41.bc.ca/board/budgets-and-policies/district-budgets.