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School board erases 10 jobs to cover $1-million deficit

The Okanagan Skaha School District is contemplating a reduction of 11.5 jobs to help tame its 2014-15 budget deficit. - Wikimedia Commons
The Okanagan Skaha School District is contemplating a reduction of 11.5 jobs to help tame its 2014-15 budget deficit.
— image credit: Wikimedia Commons

The equivalent of 10 full-time jobs will be erased to help the school district close a $1-million funding gap next year.

Okanagan Skaha trustees confirmed the cuts as part of the 2014-15 budget approved unanimously at their regular meeting Monday.

Other reductions in supplies and services, plus the elimination of a $5,000 employee wellness program, will put next year’s operating budget at $54.2 million, down from $56 million this year.

The budget shortfall has been attributed primarily to less government funding due to declining enrolment and increases in labour costs.

Full-time positions that will be eliminated include a delivery driver, vice-principal and maintenance worker, while there will be part-time reductions for other employees like custodians, secretaries and teachers.  Five of the 10 cuts will be achieved through attrition.

The lost jobs represent approximately one per cent of the school district’s total workforce and primarily target support staff.

While the equivalent of 1.5 full-time jobs were added back into the budget following initial public consultations, the local head of the Canadian Union of Public Employees said the cuts will nonetheless be tough to take.

"We still feel that CUPE is taking quite a hit, and we need to face that now with our employees and help them through that process,” unit chair Alison Reigh told the board.

Okanagan Skaha Teachers’ Union president Leslea Woodward said it’s too soon to say exactly how many of her members will be affected.

“What will happen is that there will be some people who are on temporary positions probably won’t be able to get into a position next year,” she said.

And “because of the declining enrolment, there just won’t be as many available positions.”

Woodward said teachers recognize it’s tough for trustees to eliminate jobs in order to balance the budget, but feel the blame lies with the B.C. government.

“You shouldn’t have to look at how you’re going to cut back on students’ education when there’s a lot of money going to other things in the province,” she said.

The budget is the first to be completed under the watch of secretary-treasurer Bonnie Roller Routley, who started with the district last summer.

She told the board  her reclassification of some line items led to a few budget peculiarities, such as the cost of district administration rising approximately $600,000 to $2.2 million next year.

“That is a shift of where people are being charged. It’s just part of the reorganization. We actually don’t have more bodies or dollars,” explained Roller Routley, who said previously that senior administrative positions were left untouched in the budget.

The new secretary-treasurer also won praise for improving the transparency of the budget process.

“I did hear lots of really good comments about how clear and straightforward the presentations were and I certainly appreciate that and I know a lot of other people appreciate it as well,” said Trustee Ginny Manning.

“I hope that it’s understood how difficult this is and… that we really do listen to what’s being said and what folks are concerned about.”

 

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