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Coquitlam school district trustees hold nose and vote for savings plan
School District 43 will have to dip into international education revenues this year and cut jobs next year to help cover the cost of anticipated wage increases for the district's CUPE support workers after the board of education approved a savings plan Tuesday.
"Don't you feel you've got a gun to your head?" said Coquitlam Trustee Brian Robinson before trustees unanimously voted on a plan to make $985,100 in cuts this year and $1.7 million in cuts next year to cover the predicted wage hikes stemming from a deal negotiated — but not funded — by the province.
Much of the savings will have to come out of next year's budget when the bulk of the wage hikes kick in, resulting in an anticipated reduction of $653,345 in so-called non-core staff. This comes as the district has already whittled $12.1 million from its budget this year to remove a deficit.
Board chair Melissa Hyndes said the district's support workers — who maintain buildings, do clerical jobs and work with special needs students — deserve a raise but she said the burden of paying for it should be with the province, not school districts.
NOT EASY CUTS
The agreement won't be ratified until December but, if approved, would give CUPE workers a 3.5% wage increase between July 1, 2013 and May 1, 2014 after four years without a wage increase.
"We think it's important the government pay for something the government is negotiating," Hyndes said, noting that "tough decisions" are before the board that are "difficult to swallow."
"These will not be easy cuts," she said.
The province has requested the savings plan to ensure the wage increases can be covered by current operating funds. But the cuts aren't supposed to affect services to students. This year, the district expects to make up the savings from:
• $250,000 in revenue from international education, owing to higher than expected enrolment from foreign students;
• $390,000 in cuts to supplies, printing costs, catering services and IT supplies;
• $100,000 anticipated savings in utility fees due to upgrades and locked-in gas rates;
• $189,000 cuts in salary and benefit costs by not filling temporarily unfilled positions;
• $55,600 in cuts to programs such as Community Link, supporting vulnerable students, Learning Improvement Funds and annual facilities grants for maintenance
NEXT YEAR'S BUDGET AFFECTED, TOO
The remaining savings will have to be included in next year's budget and the district anticipates having to chop even more money — including jobs. Among next year's possible cuts:
• $460,000 in transportation costs by possibly moving to provincial walk limits for busing students (but once the new Eagle Mountain school opens in Anmore, busing costs will be reduced because the district currently buses students from Port Moody's north shore and Anmore to Moody middle);
• $485,000 in supplies, IT, catering, etc.
• $50,000 on utilities;
• $102,500 for special purpose funds such as the annual facilities grant, Community Link and Learning Improvement Funds.
• and $653,345 in non-core salaries.
Meanwhile, a report on the district's forensic audit is not expected until the end of this year. SD43 secretary treasurer Mark Ferrari said it's in the "advanced stage" and would be made public after it's looked at by the district's legal staff.