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UPDATED: Concerns about cuts at SD43 schools
Principals, teachers and support staff are raising concerns about cuts to School District 43 spending, saying they could could affect professional development, school maintenance, technology and the lucrative international education program.
For the second board meeting in a row, Coquitlam Teachers' Association and CUPE representatives expressed fears that SD43 is taking money from schools instead of hacking finance, human resources and other administrative budgets. The Coquitlam Principals' and Vice-Principals' Association, meanwhile, is calling on the district to reinstate principal positions in money-making programs such as Coquitlam Open Learning and international education.
"We would like to see that income-generation potential maximized," said CPVPA president Rob Foot, who said extra money from these programs enhances programming for schools.
Both the CTA and CUPE say they are worried that $5 million in cuts approved by the board in an amended budget passed Tuesday won't stop the bleeding and could result in further chopping to school budgets next year.
BE CAREFUL, CTA WARNS
"I say to you, be careful where you cut," said CTA representative Chris King, noting that the district has an educated and progressive work force. "You need to be careful that you don't do something to dampen this drive, to stifle the enthusiasm, to kill the initiatives that have been put forward."
Both employee groups are worried the district doesn't have a handle on its finances and won't know the bottom line until the summer, when auditors look at the books for the year.
Superintendent Tom Grant admitted the district has no certainty it will "hit the nail" and won't know until this summer whether it met its budget target. Currently, the district is forecasting a $2.5-million deficit at the end of June, even with $5 million in cuts, and will have to pay back that money in future years.
He also said that figure could be larger or smaller. "We're hoping it will remain within that realm, we're hoping it will be even less," he said.
CUPE Local 561 president Dave Ginter said he wants to get to the root of the problem and said he had numerous questions as to how the deficit arose in the first place.
MORE QUESTIONS — CUPE
Although the district has admitted it erred in calculating enrolment — it was out by 223 students — and overestimated revenue while underestimating expenses, it hasn't been forthcoming in explaining how this happened, said Ginter, who's doubtful SD43 will meet its target and can prevent the situation from happening again.
"The difficulty in assessing the actual cost savings is complicated as there are no actual cost savings attached to each item," he said. "Yet we are led to believe the total savings will actually be $5 million."
In an interview, CTA president Teresa Grandinetti said she shares similar concerns but is telling her membership not to panic. Still, she expects this will be the first year in recent memory that teachers who are handed layoff notices in spring are not recalled in the fall.
"I worry that's going to be one of the effects," she said.
WHAT'S BEING CUT
Tri-City public schools will have less money to spend on special equipment, programs and maintenance after School District 43 passed an amended budget Tuesday night.
The board of education unanimously passed the budget bylaw with $295.1 in spending and $5 million in cuts.
Some of the largest chunks whittled from district spending included $1.2 million repatriated from schools and $2 million in annual facilities grants that would normally be spent on roof, painting, furnace and lighting upgrades.
As well, $425,000 has been trimmed from SD43's international education budget, resulting in less money to market the service to foreign students. A principal position in that department won't be filled and schools that host foreign students won't get as much in grants for multicultural programs.
CAREER PROGRAMS HIT
Some career programs will also take a hit. Technology services loses $350,000 from its budget, including a position that won't be filled and apprenticeship, career and other programming that helps students transition from school will see $225,000 in cuts to supplies.
Further cuts include: a reduction in a vice-principal position at Centennial secondary; supplies and professional support for school support initiatives; cuts to release time for professional development; and less money for students services.
The district plans to look for another $300,000 in as yet undisclosed cuts.