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More cost-cutting at Coquitlam district eyed
Brother, can you spare $950,000?
School District 43 has three weeks to come up with a budget-cutting plan to save that much this school year and a further $1.7 million in 2014/’15 to cover the anticipated cost of wage increases for school support workers.
Oct. 22 is the deadline for a plan, which will be made public at a board of education meeting, and school officials are expected to look at every possibility except service cuts.
At Tuesday's board meeting, SD43's acting secretary treasurer, Guy Bonnefoy, laid out a process for the budget-cutting exercise that will include meetings with teachers, parents, administrators and support workers.
"I know you've got a task ahead of you," Bonnefoy told trustees as he gave his last presentation as acting secretary treasurer. His post will now be taken over by Mark Ferrari, who was recently hired as SD43's new secretary treasurer.
Although bargaining continues for CUPE workers and isn't expected to conclude until the end of December, the provincial government requires the district to find money in its current budget to cover 3.5% in wages announced last month in a B.C.-wide framework.
Union locals and boards of education must all vote to ratify the agreement by December for it to take effect. It includes a 1% raise retroactive to July 1, another 2% starting Feb. 1 and 0.5% in May 2014.
Bonnefoy said the recommended wage hikes are for this year and next but also have to be taken into consideration in future years' budgets.
"That's where we've got to build a savings plan that will recognize that amount. That's the challenge the board has before it now," Bonnefoy told The Tri-City News.
Education Minister Peter Fassbender has said that boards have long known about the need to find money in their budget to cover CUPE wage increases and some districts have already implemented savings plans.
But SD43 is in a difficult position, having had to make $12.1 million in cuts already to balance this year's budget. Adding the projected cost of CUPE wage hikes means the district will be making a total of about $13 million in cuts this year.
Last year, the district made $5 million in cuts to balance the budget but has to carry over a deficit of $10 million because of budget overages last year and accounting changes. That $10 million also has to be paid out in future years and will have to come out of the district's annual funding allotment.
Fassbender said the support staff settlement meets the government's "co-operative gains" mandate imposed on all public service unions.
School board chair Melissa Hyndes, a Port Moody trustee, has said CUPE workers deserve the wage increase negotiated by the provincial government but it shouldn't be left up to boards to fund it.
– with files from Tom Fletcher