Balanced budget hinges on talks

Staff negotiating with teachers’ union local over proposed calendar change

Cutting five educational days out of the school calendar is the first option still being hammered out to make up for a $546,175 budget shortfall in School District 69 (Qualicum).

Whether the Mount Arrowsmith Teachers Association (MATA) will agree to the calendar change is still under discussion.

Taking five days off the calendar is the first option the board would prefer to stretch its funding dollars and that alone would bring a savings of $100,000 in support staff wages.

Under Bill 22, the government took the authority away from management and the school board to change the calendar and in order for the district to cut instructional days, they must come to an agreement with the Mount Arrowsmith Teachers Association (MATA).

Calendar discussions took place on Wednesday, without result.

MATA President Deb Morran told The News the discussions have been frank but as of Thursday they still didn’t have a deal.

“When we look at the calendar change in terms of the savings it can generate we are aware of the constraints the district has.  We still have a bit of time but the clock is ticking,” she admitted.

Morran said she needs to meet with the MATA executive for input and that meeting won’t happen until next week.

Secretary-Treasurer Bernice Hannam told the Board of Education on April 24 that she wants to wrap things up this week because it takes time to implement the school calendar.

If option one is rejected, the board will look at option two, which saves $113,000 by reducing teacher staffing.

The 2012/13 operating budget, which is around 44 million dollars, isn’t enough to meet all the district’s costs and some of the other budget saving measures include cutting some custodial supplies and equipment, and eliminating extra-curricular transportation.

Board Chair Lynette Kershaw said determining a preliminary budget has been a difficult task for the new board.

“Did we get it right?

“Time will tell. It may not be perfect but it is something we can all work with and changes may need to be made,” she stated.

Superintendent Jim Ansell said the budget doesn’t become final until February so changes can me made up until then.

Concerns expressed over the cost of maintaining the newly constructed Family Place were put to rest this week.

Ansell said the facility is going to be a cost neutral proposition and shouldn’t play havoc with their budget expenses.

“It is on school district property and is a significant asset for us.

“All of our costs will be offset by revenues that will come in,” he stated.