Staff cuts proposed for school budget

NANAIMO – School district facing $4-million shortfall for coming year.

Staff reductions are among proposals in the Nanaimo school district’s 2015-16 budget as trustees grapple with a $4-million shortfall.

The proposed school budget was presented at a meeting Thursday, with an aim of financial sustainability.

Current maintenance staff numbers amount to 46 full-time equivalents. It is proposed that be reduced by 15.9 per cent.

Custodial staff is approximately 68 full-time equivalents and a reduction of about 22.6 per cent is proposed.

Rob Zver, president of CUPE Local 606, the education support workers union, said the CUPE job eliminations would lead to a savings of approximately $1 million. Cuts to custodial staff could lead to health issues and heavier workload.

“Of course, if you have a dirty building, you increase sickness, you increase kids spreading germs because things aren’t maintained,” said Zver. “In this district we’re probably at the highest end of square footage for maintaining and they’re going a step to add … another 25 per cent of the square footage to people because you cannot perfectly balance the schools.

“So they want to try to raise somebody’s cleaning level by 25 to 30 per cent more than they’re currently doing and upwards of 50 per cent, depending on where it goes,” Zver said.

Additionally, a freeze on hiring elementary school vice-principals will mean five positions will not be filled.

Deputy superintendent, budget manager and assistant operations supervisor are also proposed administration cuts, leading to savings of $445,720.

At the meeting, Jeff Solomon, trustee and vice-chairman of the business committee, said the process was difficult, but the reductions were necessary. Ninety-per cent of the budget was being spent on salaries, according to the report.

“The bottom line is that there’s going to be pain and there is pain every year and there are cuts every year and we need to really be on this,” said Solomon. “We actually need to take steps in a certain direction and I really believe that these are important steps.

“I know they’re very, very painful and I know we’re talking real people being affected and I’m hoping some of that’s going to be mitigated, especially with the amount of CUPE workers … but if we are going to get on a solid [footing] in this district, we’re going to have to make very difficult decisions and choices.”

Budgets must be finalized and sent to the province by June 30.

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