Delta school budget wishes heard

Delta School District - File image
Delta School District
— image credit: File image

It may be a relatively small budgetary item in the grand scheme of things, but Colin Pawson would like to see the position of morning openers returned to Delta's elementary schools.

Pawson, president of CUPE Local 1091 which represents 850 school staff workers, said the casual work positions provided a much needed service many school administrators would also like re-instated after being cut two years ago.

The request was one of a small number made Tuesday night (April 19) to Delta school trustees as part the school district's budget discussions with the public.

Pawson said the school openers worked between 30 to 45 minutes each day and were responsible for opening the school and checking for any damage or other problems that occurred overnight.

"It was really casual work," he said, adding it cost about $50,000 annually. "Talk to a lot of the principals now and you'll hear they would like that back."

The likelihood of that is slim considering the Delta School District is dealing with a budget shortfall of $3.49 million for the coming school year.

To balance the books the district is proposing staffing cuts—12 teaching positions and close to seven support staff.

Part of the move to address the anticipated shortfall means dipping into the district's reserve funds for $670,000.

The funding gap has been created by a continued spiraling down of student enrollment numbers and the fact all of B.C.'s school districts must submit a balanced budget.

In the three previous years, Delta has had to trim its budget by $10.9 million.

Pawson said the problem does not lie in the need to find enough money to cover the shortfall as much as it has to do with what he considers is chronic underfunding of the province's education system.

With enrollment in Delta not expected to flatten out in 2016, that could mean continued cuts.

Two years ago, Delta trustees closed a pair of South Delta elementary schools to cover the shortfall.

No such drastic measures this time around, but there is the possibility of job losses.

For Pawson's members, the 6.83 positions facing the axe will be made up through attrition.

"It will be through retirements," he said. "So, if you have a job today, you're more than likely going to have one next year. But that's not much fun either because that leads to heavier workloads. And the cuts also relate to supplies, which goes to the old saying that you do more with less. But that only works for a while."

Pawson did commend the district for being fiscally responsible and creative in its attempts to steady enrollment numbers through the set up of school academies that can retain local students and attract some from outside school districts.

On the school staffing cuts, the district has proposed increasing the student-teacher ratio in both elementary and secondary schools. That would save $921,020 or 10 of the 12 full time equivalent positions expected to be cut. Further reductions in additional noon hour supervision are also being sought.

Among other proposed changes are the loss of one ESL teaching position across elementary and secondary schools, and the re-organization of specials needs bussing to eliminate one route.

The board of trustees have to adopt their budget next Tuesday (April 26).


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