Within the line items and numbers of any budget stand the people.
It is the people that make up the reality of any financial document, and on Wednesday night the people most affected by the budget of School District 20 stood up and spoke at a public meeting on the proposed plan at Trail Middle School.
Around 40 people, including union representatives and teachers, listened as superintendent of schools Greg Luterbach detailed proposed cut after cut needed to rein in the costs of the operation.
When the axe stopped, it was revealed the district was threatening to cut nearly 14 full time equivalent jobs across the board in the coming year to deal with a $1.55 million operating shortfall.
The proposed cuts to staff — including two teacher-librarians, almost eight teachers, three non-enrolling teacher staff, and one custodian — raised the ire of the crowd.
Cutting the teacher salaries meant the district would save $1.17 million in 2012/13, the largest chunk out of the $1.58 million in total cuts made.
Andy Davidoff, Kootenay Columbia Teachers Union representative, referred to the SD20 board’s guiding principle — that “Student learning drives our budget while recognizing the need to be sustainable and fiscally responsible” — and wondered why the board of trustees was keeping buildings over bodies.
“It looks like teachers and CUPE are bearing the brunt of the budget cuts and nothing is coming from administration that is significant at all, and that doesn’t seem to be fair,” he said.
“And, unfortunately, the people that impart that learning are taking the largest cut, over $1 million.”
Board chair Darrel Ganzert said there would be motions moving forward about facilities at the next board meeting — where the proposed budget would undergo its first two readings on the way to being adopted.
With custodial staff possibly being cut from 12-month to 11-month employees, and the district expecting to save $113,841, CUPE Local 1285 shop steward Darlene Schultz stood up.
“You can expect to pay that much money and more through arbitration because we feel our members have the right to the 12-month positions that they have, and there is significant jurisprudence on that,” she said.
“It is, in our opinion, discriminatory and it will be fought, right to the wall.”
Roger Smith, who has spent the last 23 years working with the district as a custodian, agreed.
He pointed to case law that says their jobs are set up for 12 months, and they will go to arbitration to ensure they stay that way.
“My question is, when we win, where is that back pay coming from in this budget?” he said, suggesting staff in every other area of operation should try going from 12 to 11 months.
“If you are going to do this, do it where everyone is a factor,” he said. “I don’t think senior management would like going from 12 to 11 months.”
It was far from a good news budget, with the district scrambling to cover a drop in funding from the Ministry of Education, and to cope with rising internal costs for sick leave that are now $400,000 over budget.
As a result, SD20 administration delivered a series of recommended budget adjustments for the coming school year totaling $1.58 million, expecting to leave the district with $27,430 in the bank at the end of the year.
There will also be a district-wide rise in student-to-teacher ratio — from 24-1 to 25-1 — that could impact the electives offered at the high school level.
Davidoff urged caution to the board before they sat down Monday night (7 p.m., Blueberry Creek Community School) to begin deliberation on the proposed budget.
“If you look at student learning, you assured us that it was the teachers, support workers and people that work with kids, that drive the kids to school, and clean up our schools and do all of that” that were more important than facilities, said Davidoff.
“But you have made (facilities) a priority. I don’t think the board has looked at their own statement.”
Ten committee meetings on the budget have contributed to the draft budget proposal, which the board will give consideration to in first and second reading on Monday night.
If approved, the budget cuts and changes will take effect July 1.
Proposed reductions and revenue generation items
Libraries• reduce elementary teacher-librarians by two full-time equivalent (FTE) – $184,508
Non-enrolling teacher staff• eliminate math teacher at elementary by two FTE – $184,508• eliminate literacy lead teacher at secondary by .714 FTE – $65,867
Teacher staffing• adjust secondary class sizes from 24 to 25 for a 2.428 FTE reduction – $223,983• eliminate staffing dedicated to virtual school by .286 FTE – $26,395• classroom organization based on elimination of required district averages at kindergarten and primary by 5.375 FTE – $495,865
Clerical support staff• clerical/library assistants reduced by 21 hours per week – $23,530• restructure CUPE callout and rentals by five hours per week – $7,589
Custodial• reduce high school service levels for custodial by one FTE – $43,319• change custodians from 12 month to 11-month employees – $113,841
Facilities• remove all SD20 staff and funding from Blueberry Creek Community School – $20,000• Sell Sunningdale School and save utility costs – $10,000
Service and supplies• eliminate regional Pro-D contractor – $6,000• eliminate grant to Education Heritage Society – $2,500
District administration• eliminate vice principal position at Glenmerry – $24,194
Technology• eliminate “helping infuse technology” release time to schools – $87,399
Transportation• change two 12-month drivers to 10-month drivers• parents pay for transportation if students attend a different school due to parent initiated transfer – $4,000• charge out of district children riding SD20 buses the full cost ($70 per month) – $24,000
Revenue generation• adjust rental policy to cover costs – $10,000• negotiate SD10 financial services contract to better reflect costs – $10,000
Savings from selected items: $1,584,801
Target for savings: $1,577,371
Budget position: $27,430
Source: superintendent of schools, Greg Luterbach