When you are handed tax money and charged with spending it in the interest of the public, you can do it by either looking at the short term or the long term.
In the short term means looking just at this year’s budget, saving money now and giving the appearance of being fiscally responsible. And, to be sure, it is one way of shouldering that public tax dollar responsibility.
Or you can look at the long term and realize that sometimes you have to spend a little more money now to make future savings. That’s the decision the Okanagan Skaha School Board thought they were making when they decided to hire a consultant to lead their contract negotiations with the local teachers’ union and the B.C. Teachers Federation.
It’s kind of like buying the more expensive air-conditioner — the one that uses less energy so it saves you money for a long time into the future.
The school board argues that spending $800 a day for a contract consultant instead of having inexperienced staff jump in solo will help prevent a mistake now, that might end up costing the board money for whatever the term of the contract is, possibly three to five years. Spending some extra cash up front would be the more responsible choice, and the consultant would also help mentor staff in the negotiation process, sort of a two-for-one deal.
On the other side, Kevin Epp, who will be leading the local negotiations for the Okanagan Skaha Teachers Union, argues that bringing in a hired gun is unnecessary, since this is his first time at the bargaining table as well. However, he does have the BCTF backing him up with advice and consultation.
When you mention the $800 a day fee, it seems like a lot of money — it is. But the only question for now is whether or not the school district trustees and the administration are making choices that get the public the best value for its money and planning for the long term shows they are making good choices so far.