A number of staff reductions and cost-cutting measures were unveiled at Tuesday night’s school board meeting where the proposed 2012-13 budget was out for the public to view.
The $61-million budget was given the first two readings, while voting on the third will happen at a special meeting of the board June 26.
But the vote was not unanimous.
Trustees Randy Cairns and Carol Hamilton voted against the budget, while Edie Heinrichs, Jim Taylor and Shelly Carter were in favour.
Cairns said the staffing reductions worried him, due to potential complications with contracts and “legalities,” and that the level of administrative staff being let go (see story page three) “leaves us too thin at the administration level” to carry out the work. He also said the goodwill established over the years with working groups will be undone and that student achievement will be negatively affected.
Board vice-chair Taylor was blunt in his assessment of the district’s financial position:
“We’re in bad financial shape. We have big problems and there are no good cuts,” he said. “Our belief is that we can spread the administrative work around the district.”
He added that it was time the board looked at how to more fiscally responsibly carry out services for students.
Hamilton lodged her negative vote after stating that while she recognized the financial problems the school district faces, she didn’t “feel that the approach was balanced.”
She said “people would feel better if they knew the transition plan.”
One of the main cries from the public Tuesday evening was the loss of two elementary school counsellors, which some residents said put their children at risk.
But at the budget presentation, board chair Heinrichs said a 0.6 full-time equivalent (FTE) counsellor will be in place by September.
“We’re not planning on leaving a hole there,” she said, and promised that staff has begun working on how children’s needs will be met, and that a plan will be created during the summer months.
We want to create “better services, and affordable services,” Heinrichs added. “If we don’t make changes, we’ll be left with the same [problems].”
The proposed 2012-13 budget calls for a number of reductions including nearly $700,000 in exempt staff wages, $45,000 from the communications budget, $575,000 from teaching staff — due to enrolment decline — and a drop of $177,000 for education assistants, among others, to arrive at $1.9 million in cuts.
The district is also faced with $898,750 less in revenue due to a reduction in operating grants and other items, and had to find funds to cover about $456,000 in known expenditure changes. These included increases in employee benefits, vacation pay, WorkSafe and MSP increases and more.
The district derives 97.3 per cent of its revenue from the Ministry of Education, and 89.9 per cent of the budget goes towards salaries and benefits.
The school district, as per provincial government request, must now submit three-year budget proposals, and some of the 2013-14 and 2014-15 initial ideas on cost savings were shown Tuesday.
A balanced budget is required by law to be presented by school boards, and shortfalls are expected in the next three years: 2012-13, $1.2 million; 2013-14, $2.2 million; 2014-15, $3 million.
To compensate in 2013-14, some proposed measures include engaging in a school closure process ($400,000 savings), decrease student transportation costs ($258,000) and move to a two-week spring break ($100,000 savings), plus more.
In 2014-15, a further enrolment decline is still predicted, and possible teaching staff reductions would save $281,000, removing a lab assistant ($40,000 savings) and potentially consolidating the French Immersion program to recoup $92,000.
The board of trustees special meeting to carry out the third reading of the budget bylaw happens June 26 at 6:30 p.m. at Fraserview school library. If the public wishes to comment on the budget before that time, they can contact their individual school PACs, send e-mails or phone calls to individual trustees, or drop off letters to the school district administration office on Fourth Avenue.
You can also send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.