Coquitlam school district ponders 163 job cuts

Coquitlam District board chair Melissa Hyndes, centre, with Anmore school trustee Holly Butterfield discussing $13.4 million in cuts to balance the budget at Tuesday night
Coquitlam District board chair Melissa Hyndes, centre, with Anmore school trustee Holly Butterfield discussing $13.4 million in cuts to balance the budget at Tuesday night's special board meeting.

School District 43 is facing another round of cuts this year to balance its 2014/'15 school budget and this may be the year families in Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Anmore and Belcarra start to notice the effects.

Among the recommendations to save money starting in September is closing middle school cafeterias and making changes to secondary school cafeteria services to save money as these programs run at a loss, as well as eliminating all non-special-needs related before and after school busing and chopping benefits for retired teachers.

Libraries won't close as schools will have to find different ways of allocating librarian time, but overall, 38.38 FTE librarian positions could be cut from the budget, and some of the programs that may be affected by the changes could be middle school exploratory programs.

In all, SD43 is looking at cutting as many as 163.3 FTE positions, most of them teachers. although 22 FTE support staff, 33 education assistants and 4 administration FTE positions are on the chopping block, too. The district leadership recommendations have yet to be approved by the board.

How ever on Tuesday, during a special board meeting on the budget, trustees voted to include a $900,000 contingency fund as a safeguard against an emergency. The decision followed a heated debate, during which three trustees expressed concerns the district was saving money that could be clawed back by the government.

However, it was pointed out the district still has a $10 million debt to pay and any extra funds, if there were any, would go to paying it off.

This is the second year of cuts during the budget process — last year the district shaved $12.1 million from its budget — after ending the 2012/13 school year with a $10 million deficit.

The district maintains downloading of costs, including wages, higher benefit and utility costs onto boards has resulted in a structural deficit and on Tuesday board chair Melissa Hyndes called on the community to "rally" for public education. Hyndes said trustees already tried to advocate for more funding but their efforts have "fallen on deaf ears."

Approximately 50 people turned out to the meeting, many of them from employee groups that will be facing cuts.

Next week the board will decide whether to approve the district leadership team's recommendations. Cuts are being recommended to youth workers, speech language pathologists, workers who specialize in behavioural issues, counsellors, and learning supports, among others.

The board was also told that 16 proposed teacher job cuts are directly related to class size and composition and will result in larger class sizes, although still within provincial limits. One effect, trustees were told, is that more families will be turned away from their home school to the next available school with room in the classroom for more students.

More later


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