School district passes budget

Temporary contract teachers and custodial positions hit with cuts

After months of heated debate, the annual budget bylaw for School District 20 (SD20) for the fiscal year 2013/14 was quietly passed Friday.

The trustees met in quorum at the Trail Middle School in an open meeting and had one member of the public in attendance.

“The budget bylaw was read for $41.8 million, with an operating budget of $35.6 compared to the $36.6 million we had last year,” explained Natalie Verigin, secretary treasurer.

“Although the decisions made have been difficult, it is a relief it is over because now we can focus on implementation.”

Darrel Ganzert, SD20 board chair, said that the impact to the workers of the district was less this year than in past budgets.

“The biggest impact of course, was in the facility changes,” he said. “That was difficult to get through.

“However, the impact to the workers is much less than it could have been.”

The closure of MacLean Elementary to reconfigure Rossland Secondary School to K-9, cut $265,000 from the budget; and combining two Castlegar primary schools cut $38,400 this year, and another $35,000 in 2014.

The money saved in these cuts is cumulative, said Verigin.

“The bottom line is that we are going to get less money next year. We need those savings from the school closure because we are not going to be getting any influx of new dollars going forward.”

Ganzert explained that once the facility changes were dealt with, the budget became a fairly simple matter.

“Partly because the superintendent and his team found some legitimate and creative ways to move the funding of support teachers from one area to another.

“This really saved a lot of potential job losses.”

Ganzert said that although counselling, administrative and teacher-librarian time will be reduced, the teachers with temporary contracts will be most affected.

“A fairly large number of teachers are in temporary contracts, and those just simply won’t be renewed.

“There will be temp jobs coming up in September, just not as many.”

Further cuts, in particular custodial positions, are projected to take a toll on the appearance and upkeep of district schools.

“I do have to say that CUPE has also suffered losses in this budget,” said Ganzert.

“And to the board, these cuts are very distasteful and will certainly affect students.”

Ganzert said that the board has very clearly heard the message from parents, that a school that is not as clean as it has been in the past, may have a psychological impact on both students and staff.

“It is their belief that sickness has already increased amongst the students, although there is no data to support that,” he explained.

“And a  less clean building may make it seem that the institution is not as respected as it was before.

“This is not something, as trustees, we want as our legacy.”